Doing NaNoWriMo has been an incredible experience.
What was once a dream, a failure, a theory, an illusion, a crazy idea, a desire is now a reality.
I've written my first book, start to finish.
Along the way I learned a great deal about my 'writing' process, some things I knew, some I guessed at, some I didn't realize before NaNo.
1) It is possible for a forty-something, full-time staff editor, mom of two children under the age of ten, wife of 18 years, and novice performance storyteller, among other things to write a 50,000 words plus, along a single storyline in under 30 days;
2) That my best days of writing were around 2k. Less than that and I wondered about my sense of commitment. More than that and I wondered about my sanity. Both extremes were dissatisfying, but that middle range, 2k, felt really good;
3) 3/30/10 is the best combo for a writing session - 3 slots, 30 mins each with ten min breaks;
4) Even better is to challenge another crazy writer to a Word War - a half hour of no holds barred writing, with a final word count shared with one's 'opponent';
5) Public Accountability = Incalculable Support - I told anyone who'd listen for more than 30 seconds that I was doing NaNo and that /this/ year I was going to make it;
6) Having my family on board, supportive, feeding me and generally making me feel like it was okay to disappear for a couple of hours a night to write made it possible to focus on the writing;
7) Writing is meditation - being present, even when distractions (doubt, fear, elation, worry, anxiety, bills, laundry, dishes, good books, favorite TV shows) abound, acknowledging those distractions And Doing It Anyway;
8) That it is possible to feel like a total failure in the morning after a particularly bad writing session, work a regular shift, feel exhausted and pained from carpal tunnel flare-ups, then sit down and write something half decent, something that can be tweaked later into something readable;
9) That the first 10k is hard because it's all so unknown; that the second 10k is hard because emotion must transition to commitment, that the third 10k is hard because every plot point is falling apart and it /has to/ fall apart, that the fourth 10k is hard because you've got to quickly put everything back together that fell apart in the previous 10k, that reaching 50k is hard because your wrist is giving out and you realize that there's no way that you'll be able to wrap the novel with the same level of detail as the first 40k because you'll run out of words before you've run out of plot;
10) That the first 10k is easy because everything is new and fresh and you're establishing easy things like place and time; that the second 10k is easy because now you get to set up the really juicy stuff, start showing character flaws and throw in your first twist; that the third 10k is easy because you're halfway through the story and your gaining momentum by leaps and bounds and before you know it, there you are at the fourth 10k which is easy because now you get to really mess with your characters, generally torture them and make them reveal strengths they never had; that reaching 50k is easy because look, you've already done more writing than you've ever done, so those last few thousand are just a joy to work with;
11) Chris Baty is a funny, brilliant man;
11b) Finding 80's Vids on YouTube can help keep up momentum; giving yourself nice, juicy rewards every 10k (like an epi of your favorite show on DVD) releases the pressure of getting it 'perfect;'
12) Writing front to back, linearly through time, with a set of good character sketches and a general plot idea really is the best way for me to write;
13) That yes, I do have novel length ideas and I can sustain that energy over a long period of time;
14) That hard as it is, for me, it is best not to rewrite anything as the story is being framed/written - going back reinforces a sense of never getting done, second guesses the original reasons for plot points, and limits forward motion;
15) Never limit the forward motion of a story in progress; delays are inevitable; stopping is not an option;
16) That peformance storytelling as Jazz loosens the storytelling joints and creates a sense of safe risk in writing - after all, it's not like you're on stage telling a story in front of hundreds of people, it's just words on paper;
17) Writing is Words on Paper - plotting ideas, mulling characters, imagining scenery, basically anything that occupies the mind and emotions that does not actually put words on paper (or screen) is /not/ writing;
18) I hate passively constructed sentences. I write /a lot/ of passively contructed sentences and bad plot cliche's when I write fast - but - getting those words out means that I can also get to some really nicely put together sentences and fresh ways of looking at nuances of the human condition;
19) I don't have to write everyday to make a goal - I think I took nearly a week total off in November for various reasons ranging from fatigue to prior commitments/holiday celebrations/travel - being behind does not mean the end of a project or a lack of commitment; catching up and even getting ahead of achievable goals is the sweetest thing;
20) NaNoWriMo really is as life changing as they say it is.
Two books got me through NaNo, just two books, plus the occasional dive into a Charles DeLint book to keep limber:
No Plot, No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty
Write Mind: 299 Things Writers Should Never Say To Themselves by Eric Maisel
There's still several months of rewrite needed to turn the draft into a submittable manuscript and in all likelihood I'll need to triple the word count I've got now to make it viable. But I'm taking a break from it to reaquaint myself with all the things I set aside to do NaNo. I have the sure knowledge that the novel will still be there waiting for me Jan. 1 when I start on the next stage of its development, and that knowledge is such a priceless gift.
In the meantime, I look forward to completing a few smaller projects that in October looked large and menacing - none are of the length of NaNo and none need to try and bear the burden of saying everything I want to say, which I guess is the ultimate realization of NaNo.
I have a lot I want to say, much I want to create. Every piece I create, whether essay, book, poem, column, or even blog post, is a chance to examine and share whatever it is I want to share. And it doesn't have to be perfect the first go, or 'complete.' It just can be what it is and there will be time enough and opportunity enough to keep working a thought out.
I feel like I've released a pressure valve too long and too tightly restricted. But instead of expecting one single note played loud and sustained, I can let the notes evolve and shift and change, vary and contrast. It's pretty exciting.
Makes for happy. TYL.