It’s that time of year again: friends vanish for long stretches of time and start obsessing about word counts and write-ins, all in the name of NaNoWriMo. For those of you who haven’t heard about it, November is National Novel Writing Month, and for one month writers all over the world try to write 50,000 words in one month (1667 words per day or, if you’re like some of us… 50,0000 words in about 9 days loaded up on generous doses of caffeine and sugar.) towards a novel.
Then you have the slightly more insane members of this happy band of writing fiends… the MLs (Municipal Liaisons) who not only try to write 50K words, but try to get everyone in their region to try and write 50K by scheduling prep classes, get togethers, write-ins, word sprints and word wars. 1 part insane writing machine, 1 part logistics planner, two parts cheerleader these people find new and creative ways to inspire people to write.
The whole process can be insane and it can be scary. The deeper you get into the month, the more your word count becomes your arch nemesis – needling you and pushing you on. It can be your downfall or your best supporter – and it could be both on any given day.
Over the past three years, I have gotten behind, and challenged myself to try something even more insane than 1667 words a day. It started with a 3K day, the next year it was a 5K day, where I would have made it to 5 if I hadn’t run into the next day (I still counted it as 5 since I hadn’t gone to bed yet), the next year was 6, and I realized after I was finished that when I write, what’s coming up next in the story kind of percolates in the back of my mind and all I was doing was emptying out the reserve and leaving myself dry for a few days.
This year has been my slowest start ever. I had less than 7K written and I set my goal for breaking that barrier, only being hopped up on caffeine and having put my inner editor in a car with movie money (which it spent on beer, karaoke, and wooing my inner critic) my twitter ‘mission statement’ was improperly worded and what I actually said was that my goal was to get 7K rather than get to 7K.
It seems my inner judgement had gone after my AWOL editor and and critic (and discovered that all it really wanted was a nice long nap). With that voice out of the way, I said… “Why Not?”
What followed was an easy numbers game that led to me discovering that I really needed to work on my math. I had the 11K day and inspiration for the following days as well.
It started with the originally planned goal of breaking the 7K barrier and led to the old joke: How do you eat an elephant? and the answer was the same – in small bites.
Getting to (and passed my goal) involved setting smaller, more easily reached goals.
337 words to break 7K was followed by: oh… if I write another 75 I’ll be at a nice round number. If I write 100 words, my words per day will show an increase. Oh, look… it says I’ll finish in March. the 150’s, 10s, 75s added up and I usually exceeded them, and I didn’t do it all at once. I wrote for half an hour in the morning, and then during breaks during the day. I took a nap… I worked, I wrote… I took a break… I wrote, I worked I watched TV… and I wrote.
I tried not to think ‘I have to write 7K’ and instead make bite sized chunks of the writing until I had 1075 to go to get to the point where I would have caught up with what my word count should have been. By then I was used to just writing.
Granted some of the writing was just mini-rants, or comments about what I was doing to get me going again, but for the most part… it will be at least semi useful.
The whole challenge is not for everyone. Some people prefer to be organized, linear… in full control and write almost ready for publishing work. Some people can’t turn off their inner voices and have trouble. Some people psych themselves out…
But you can psych yourself in too. I wrote 11,076 words in one day. Is it ‘good’? Is it ‘polished’? Not by any stretch of the imagination but if you look at it.. you’re adding bulk to your story, like a sculptor who starts out with a framework, you glob your clay onto the form, roughing in the details… and then, come December, you start carving the details into the rough form, carving out the bad spots and cutting details from the lumps until the story/figure emerges, but you do it in small bites.
Now if I can just get those drunken voices to stop singing and get some shut eye, I’ll be in great shape.
Where’s that Lebanese coffee I ordered?