The hours counting down rapidly.
The minutes feel like seconds.
I’m not ready.
But I must be ready.
Sunday is November 1st.
No, that’s not actually what I’m talking about.
Writer’s the world over are preparing, blogging, outlining.
NaNoWriMo is this crazy event where folks sit their butts in chairs and attempt to write a book in one month. What constitutes a book? 50,000 words. Which roughly breaks down to 1,666 words a day.
That doesn’t sound like much, right?
Until you realize November is a ridiculous month. If Halloween is the wind up for the Holiday Season, Thanksgiving is the Pitch, and as you know, it’s all downhill from there.
This is exactly why the folks at NaNoWriMo chose the month of November. Because it’s hard. Because they wanted to play on this idea that, hey, if you want to write a book, you have to sit down and do the work every day and it’s not always easy because life gets in the way and November is a great month for life getting in the way so let’s show folks that if they can write a book in the month of November then hell, they can write a book any ol time.
The whole thing runs on an honor system, you create an account on their website, you then have access to the community and other fun bits and pieces because you need to practice some sort of procrastination while trying to rip a book out of your insides and shove it on the page. Once you’ve written your words, you throw it into the tracking system they have and watch that running total as if your life depended on it.
Which it does in November if you’re writing a book.
This will be my fifth time taking part in this event. After five times you’d think I’d be used to it, but I’m not gonna lie, the fear and anticipation are clawing at my nerves. This thing is a challenge.
The first time I did it I kind of flew by the seat of my pants in a daze and I didn’t finish because I ended up having my gallbladder taken out the day before Thanksgiving.
(Side Note: This is one option to procrastination, all be it an expensive and painful option, but an option none the less.)
Then came my second time around, I wasn’t going to do it. I had a 6 month old baby and I couldn’t figure how to get dinner on the table for two people every night, much less add book writing to that. But I did it, I sat my ass in the chair whenever that baby was sleeping and I wrote in ten, fifteen, eleven minute increments and wrote 50,000 words.
That taught me a few things, that I can write with a kid. That I can write in the middle of madness.
Year three was this nice hysterical book writing ordeal, I wrote and challenged myself and suffered through the prose and thought, three and I’m out. Three is a good number to call it on. I’m a writer, I get it. I can do this, I DO do this all year long.
Then last year, that damned muse took me by the throat and beat me upside the head with an idea so rich and fulfilling that I couldn’t NOT write. It was not an ideal time either, we had just moved into this house, I was having a baby shower for a friend and Thanksgiving was going to eat up five days. So I decided if I was going to create this story that was screaming to get out, I would have to throw away every last insecurity I had and go for it. Go for it fast.
I came out of my writing stupor and in 18 days had written 53,000 words and finished that damn book.
Sure I was bruised, sleep deprived, smelly and had an actual rat nesting in my hair. But I got my kid to school, I fed my family and I wrote the book.
So here we are at year 5.
How do I do this? I honestly don’t have an outline or anything. I sometimes, if I’m lucky, have an idea of a story that I’m going to work on. Then, I simply sit down on the 1st and I just start writing. The first two days become this strange exercise where first I battle ‘naysayers’ in my head and demand they leave, post haste fully. Then a strange shift comes because I’m no longer quite so concerned with the words on the page, they don’t have to be right or perfect, they just have to be words on a page.
Writing is no longer about the prose, but the number of words on the page. It reboots my brain somehow.
Have I learned anything from writing a book in a month? Only that I can write a book in a month. It’s a good reminder of the discipline it takes to write every day and see to personal success. That in order to write, you have to do the work.
Is it cool? No, it’s stupid and ridiculous. I mean, what the hell. There are so many other things I need to be doing. I’m out every year the Wednesday before Thanksgiving because we head to my in laws or wherever. So I lose the last five days of the month. I have tried to write over Thanksgiving, and maybe you can but it gets a bit difficult to have the focus once I’m away from home in a house full of family.
Why do I do it? Because there is something so rewarding about fighting a calendar and a clock and a schedule and come out on top of it. Something so bad ass feeling. I must admit it’s a cool accomplishment. And those who have done it before know what a sense of accomplishment it is.
Should you do it? If you want to be a writer, yeah. If nothing else, even if you don’t meet the word count goal, you start yourself down the path of sitting your ass in a chair every damn day and putting words on a page.
Do I have any advice for you if you do attempt this? Not really. I have my own way of writing, my own process. I know a community of people who all write differently than I do, some use outlines, others post it notes, others need a clear picture of the story they want to tell.
I suppose my only advice is to take a really long bath Halloween night and perfume as much of yourself as possible. Hats are your friend. And make sure enough clean sweatpants are folded near your bed, so you can at least know when you’re dropping your kid off at school, you won’t be too much of a Pig Pen mess. And if you are lucky enough to capture your story, hold onto that sucker by the neck and don’t let go. Don’t stop fighting until you’ve squeezed the whole book out of the evil beast.