Friday, February 3, 2023

Finish It Friday ~ JANOWRIMO


The phenomenon known as NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, takes place every November. The gist of it is to write 1,600-odd words each day for the whole month and come out a the end with a 50,000-word draft novel. There are all kinds of ways to connect to other people who are participating, such as posting your daily word count and joining group write-ins. I've tried, halfheartedly, to NaNoWriMo a couple of times in the past, but November is not a great month for me for daily writing, what with Thanksgiving, at least four days with no school, and it usually being the time of year that my attack of "spring" cleaning strikes. I also don't find motivation in the joining of groups or the declaring publicly that I'm working on something. Quite the opposite, in fact.

At the end of December, I was looking at a January calendar that was mostly clear and feeling the urge to work on something different than the projects I'd been doggedly grubbing away at all fall. I pulled up the file of a novel I'd started the last time I'd tried to NaNoWriMo, in 2018. I'd written 14,000 or so words before I couldn't bear to look at it any more. But now as I read through I realized there was something to it--a story I could work with. So I decided to create my own NaNoWriMo but in January--JanNoWriMo--and finish writing that book. There would be no joining, no declaring my intentions, no public posting of my daily word count; there would just be me pecking quietly away writing every day. 

Since I already had some words (about 8,000 that made it over from the original effort)--and because I did the math wrong--I only required myself to write 1,200 words in order to get a sticker for the day. Most days I wrote more, some days a *lot* more, and some days I quit at exactly 1,202 because I couldn't think of another single solitary word to write. I also wasn't quite done on January 31st and had to write a couple thousand words on February 1st to finish the book, In the end, I came out with a draft of around 61,500 words.

Another principle of NaNoWriMo is to write forward--no going back and tinkering--and I followed this mostly, until I got to a place about 3/4 of the way through when I got stuck. I had no idea where to go from there. So I went back to the beginning and started reading, and for the next three days got my word count in by backfilling all of the preceding scenes. This gave me both an overview of the book and enough of a rest that my brain had time to come up with the next scene. 

When I typed the last word Wednesday I experienced a feeling of euphoria that was quickly followed by a sense of letdown. I was going to miss these characters who kept me company when I lay awake at night with insomnia, imagining them acting out the scenes to come. I also knew that the really hard work--letting it rest, deciding if there's anything there worth keeping, and then revising--lies ahead. The letdown didn't last too long, though, because, after all, I wrote a whole novel, right to the end, something I've wanted to do for more than 40 years.

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