After two stalled novel attempts, I've jumped in to National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. During this month any Tom Clancy, Richard Bachman, or Harry Potter author wannabe can write themselves a novel. All they need is to put 1,667 words on a page each day.
I haven't figured out how to keep my word count that high - as you'll see below - but I have learned a few things so far.
A) Writing takes time.
I did a timed writing and it looks like I'm writing about 35 word per minute (wpm). This means that the entire 50K word project will take almost 24 hours over the course of November. That's a lot of time. There won't be a single other thing I do this month that takes that long. This means that posts like this get a little less attention than they need and that the other things in my life, family and a bit of work, need more focus when I'm doing those things. That said,
B) I can find time.
On Tuesday night I checked Twitter, read some of The Gunslinger, watched The Debt. I've found that every ten minutes is precious if I'm going to make 50K words. That means that if I have a ten minute window I add to the story. If I have a three minute window I do something so that I have ten minutes later. If I can have a ten minute, random writing moment each day then I can make up over a full day of writing each week.
C) Seeing my word count grow is exciting.
Last week Jamie Rubin shared a great post about the aggregate writing he's been able to get done this year. Mine isn't in the same ballpark but seeing my own charts grow each day has been very rewarding. I've averaged 1,391 words each day which is behind the pace but I'm focused on making steady and regular progress.
D) It feels good to not worry about writing crap.
Mur Lafferty is doing a great podcast for the month and one thing she's noted is to not worry about writing crap. Some of what I write will be good, some bad, the rest in between. Hemingway said “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”
This month is not about cutting the bad, making the in between good and the good great. This month is just about assembling those pieces.
E) My characters seem fresh.
In On Writing, Stephen King talks about writing each day on one story, otherwise his characters seems stale. I've started two other fictional stories and these current characters do seem more alive than the ones of the past.
F) Setting my novel in the moment has made things easier and more difficult.
To participate in NaNoWriMo I decided to create a structure that would be easy to follow. My novel would take place over the course of one months time, and each day I would write what happened during that day. This was a good structure unil I didn't finish a day. It turns out that some days in this story are really long and some are quite short. The problem is that I'm not making the word count up on the longer days. Then if I get behind I feel the need to finish what happened yesterday so today's portion can unfold.
G) Writing makes me more emotionally tuned.
I'm writing a female protagonist because I want my daughters to someday read what I've written and empathize with her. She's my proxy for advice on challenges and uncertainty. In connecting with these thoughts while writing I'm becoming more empathetic towards them. If my hero's father can be a great guy, can't I? Aren't I him and he me?
I've been posting regularly on the blog this week and that should continue because there is no better distraction during NaNoWriMo than writing posts like this.