What I've Learned this November...NaNo Edition

1.     I usually struggle with public declarations for good reason. When I announce something like “I’m doing NaNo” or whatever, I like the feeling of accountability. It solidifies the move.  I also enjoy connecting with other people trying to do the same thing. Support and encouragement always feels good.

But there’s another side to it too. I fear tipping over into over-sharing and attention whoring. And when plans change or I falter, I can’t help but wish I’d kept it private. I’m still learning to walk the line.

2.     All that was to preface my discussion of the next thing I’ve learned this month.

NaNo is not for me.

I still think it’s a wonderful thing and I love seeing so many people leap into those projects with such glee. Anything that encourages writing and art is positive. I agree with the position that before there can be quality there has to be some kind of quantity. If NaNo gets a writer through a block, apprehension, doubt, or whatever, that’s a win.

I don’t regret my past participation. It got me started on my first novel length manuscript, put me in contact with local writers, prodded me through the middle portions and helped me keep the momentum necessary to finish it.

But even in the midst of all that, I never fully embraced a pell-mell approach. That just isn’t my process. I’m not comfortable with it.  The sense of accomplishment I get for making a word count goal isn’t the main thing I’m seeking.  There’s nothing wrong with it, but it doesn’t work for me.

3.     I’ve gained more insight into my own process in the first couple weeks of this month. That’s exciting. I am happiest and most productive when I find a middle ground between outlining and exploration.

I like to begin with broad story ideas, characters, and settings. I live with that in my head for a while, test things out, and move around. Then, I like to work through major events and plot points. After that, I like to explore the places in between and add to the outline as I go along. If I start with too rigid a form, I feel constricted.

Now, all of this could potentially work in a NaNo situation with proper planning. I did not do that and my experience suffered. However, I also found myself obsessing about that word count. The temptation to throw stuff down on the page to make that goal was strong.

I don’t like that feeling. I like to work through scenes and then circle back to polish and hone. It’s a little recursive and it certainly doesn’t mean I don’t have lots of editing ahead of me, but it feels right. It’s probably a holdover from writing academic papers, and that’s fine too, but I don’t think it’s the best fit with a successful NaNo run. Not for me, anyway.

4.     I did learn to reconnect with the fun of writing a longer work. Starting NaNo pushed me into committing some words to paper. My current work in progress has actually begun—it isn’t still locked in my head. I love that part.

Now I have a better grasp on my two point of view characters, their story, and their world. I know where I need to work on plot and outline. I know what I’d like to research. I have a strong enough start that I can keep momentum going. 

I have enough dedication to the craft and a solid enough writing routine that I’ll be able to continue to work on this through November and beyond. I’ve learned that the habits I’ve established since last November have grown with me. That’s cool.

5.     I learned that even though I failed to keep up with NaNo that I can continue. I can support all those awesome people who are pursuing that goal. I’ve always been more turtle than hare—but both styles can reach the finish line.

I think I can only hope that it isn’t so bad to try something and fail or to try something and change direction. I hope I’ve learned that there’s no shame in that.

6.     I’m sure I’ll carry those lessons with me. They are important.

However, there were other things to be learned. I had a nasty cold this past week and I was only up for cocooning on the couch and watching some tv. Between naps, I learned that the show Endgame was a lot of fun and was cut short too soon.

It inspired me to try chilled vodka and pickles. I learned that the combination is awesome. The Russians know how to do it right. 

There are always new things out there to experience. I’m so grateful for that. I like learning.

 7. So whatever path you take, I’ll lift my glass for a toast.

Za Vas!