October 29th, 2017

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How I Plan To Lose NaNoWriMo

After some thought, I've decided to compete in National Novel Writing Month this year, with the intention of losing.

I suppose in a way it's a throwback to my high school days in PE class. That's Physical Education, something I excelled in losing ... in. I did become adept, however, in finding hiding places around the gym. Under the bleachers was always popular with us nerd types.

National Novel Writing Month has been shortened to NaNoWriMo to save typing fingers, and it actually has its own official website. My account is here: https://nanowrimo.org/participants/mark-r-hunter.

The idea is to write an entire novel--or at least, 50,000 words of it--in one short month, which happens to be November. Why November?

Why not?

To me it's not the best month, having a major American holiday in it. I would have picked January. What else is there to do in January? Go outside? I jest.

A bigger question is, why do it at all?

There are writers who start that Great American Novel, but never finish it. Maybe they just peter out because they don't manage their time well, or get sidetracked by other things. Or, maybe they're the type who edit obsessively, so obsessively that they never actually finish that first chapter, page, or, in extreme cases, sentence. They go over and over it, again and again, and in the end ... don't end.

But it's the first draft. As Mur Lafferty of "I Should Be Writing" is fond of saying, the first draft is allowed to suck. Nobody else has to see it, ever. For the people mentioned above, NaNoWriMo is designed to be that butt kick that forces them to forge through and finish their first draft. They don't have time to edit: To make that fifty thousand words in thirty days they have to write, what, 1,700 words a day? Go to it, get that first draft done, and edit later.

But I'm not one of those writers.

Oh, I did win NaNoWriMo once, a few years ago. It was with a young adult mystery called Red Is For Ick, which I'm currently shopping around to agents after many, many hours of editing and polishing. I did about 51,000 words in thirty days, then dropped from exhaustion. It was a huge mess, exactly as it was supposed to be, and the mess intimidated me so much it was months before I went back and added another five thousand or so words to finish it.

It just wasn't my style: I'm one of those writers who can edit as he goes. Whenever I start a writing session I go back over what was written the day before and clean it up, and fix major plot problems as I encounter them. So my first drafts are typically pretty clean, although of course they'll still need more work and polishing later on. (Especially after my wife gets a hold of them.)

So, while I am indeed entering NaNoWriMo with the intention of writing every day, I've decided this time that I'm going to stick to the habits that have worked with me in the past. As a result, I'll consider myself lucky if I get 40,000 words done, but I know from experience that once I've gotten that far, I'll be able to power though and finish--maybe in January. And honestly, any writer who takes a good shot at it, works hard, and emerges with something to show for it, wins NaNoWriMo whether they get that 50,000 words in or not.

What's the book about? It's a romantic comedy about volunteer firefighters. Its title? Um ... Fire on Mist Creek.

No, I have no idea what the title will be. I just made that up on the spot.

Sometimes you have to write wherever you can.