NaNoWriMo – How’d You Do?

It’s the first Monday of December, and all over the world, the participants of NaNoWriMo are either (a) celebrating their huge accomplishments, (b) explaining at length why they fell short of their goals, or (c) trying to pretend that they never really set out to do this crazy 50,000 word project anyway. It’s like the morning after a raging bachelor party: everyone is either trying to make it sound like it was more fun than it really was, or to distance themselves from the humiliation as much as possible.

I want to congratulate my two virtual writing buddies, Ann and Gus, who both made the goal and are Winners in the eyes of NaNoWriMo and everyone else who knows them. Awesome, guys!

As for me and the three R’s (my little group of friends here in Atlanta), we are a mixed bag. Ross, the one among us who had the least writing experience and the most ambitious energy at the outset is by far in the best shape: He made it well past 30,000 words and realized that his entire project could be completed in less than 40,000; so even though he is not in sight of the official 50K goal, going from nothing to an almost-complete novella is nothing to sneeze at.

The second R, Rob, developed an outstanding concept out of nowhere, and clocked several thousand words in the first couple of weeks. This being his first foray into creative writing in several years, I would venture to say he’s in the process of learning how long-form fiction can fit into his busy life. There’s also something extra challenging about having NO IDEA where you are going with a piece when you start. He was really brave to sit down and attempt it, and I’m hoping he will stick with the idea that formed in the coming months as it germinates and grows.

The remaining two of us abandoned our projects mid-stream, both realizing that our energies needed to go elsewhere in our writing lives (and with a household that could not stay healthy during November, I had fewer energies than usual to begin with). My friend Ryan realized he was essentially writing a prequel to the actual novel he wants to write; while I found myself lured away by a different project altogether.

Yes, I was distracted by a shiny object and, no, I’m not even all that embarrassed about it. I’ve come to respect and embrace this as part of my process. I’ve also come to realize that there is no way to say the words “part of my process” without sounding like a complete ass. And there you have it.

As of now, I don’t think I’ll be back next November. I wrote earlier about how I don’t think NaNoWriMo suits my working style at this point in life. I am, however, trying to capture the urgency and non-critical writing that comes with it. The other aspect of NaNoWriMo that is key is about making writing a priority: asking for help from partners, taking time out from other hobbies and activities, etc. I’m not someone who can put writing first every single day — at least not at this stage — but I do think it’s helpful to see how much I can accomplish when I bump it higher on my priority list.

What about you guys? Did you participate this year? What did you learn? What would you do differently next time?

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