Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What I Learned at the Knee of NaNo

With a title like this, maybe you think I have a special nickname for my grandma, and I've been sitting at her feet gleaning great wisdom. (As my dad always said, "I learned it at my mother's knee, and certain other joints!")

No, my grandparents have all passed on, so I'm not talking about them. I'm referring to NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month. It's actually a world-wide writing event, in which you sign up and strive to write 50,000 words during the month of November. My understanding is that 177,000 people signed up for it this year, and 30,000-something met their goal. I'm very happy to say I was one of them!

Fifty thousand words may not sound like a lot, but when I first sat down in front of my blank computer screen, it seemed nearly insurmountable. I only had the germ of an idea for a story. I knew who my main character was and one event that would happen to her, but that was it. Not much to go on, huh?

I decided to jump right in and have something happen to her on the first page. The story began to grow from there. The fun thing about NaNo is that the writer is not allowed to edit themselves as they write. When I've written in the past, I could get hung up for ten minutes looking through my thesaurus trying to find the exact word to express myself. But not during Nano. I had the freedom to throw words on the screen and keep typing. My story makes sense (I didn't repeat one sentence over and over) but it's certainly not good writing. I don't have the layers and subplots woven through like I will when it's polished. But I've got a great start.

For the past year or more I have just dinked around with my writing. I've had so many family situations I've been in the midst of that I felt it wasn't possible to write. And yet at the end of the day I would often think, "Just what have I accomplished today?"

During NaNo I found I could set daily word counts and meet them. Most days I did between 2,000 and 2,500 words, but one day I managed 4,300. I was able to take days off for family activities by going over my quota for several days in a row. I learned to have contests with myself. I wrote down how many words I wrote in a thirty minute time frame and tried to beat it in the next thirty minutes. And I always did.

I learned to say no to some invitations in order to keep writing. I learned that when family crises continued to hit and I didn't want to write I could still force myself to do so, regardless of my feelings.

I think my grandma would be proud.


Christina Berry said...

Your daughter sure is proud!

Anonymous said...

My pride is bubbling over!