05 November 2017

Why I'm not joining the NaNoWriMo cult

November is the principal month of worship in the cult of NaNoWriMo (what the uninitiated may call the "National Novel Writing Month"). It is chiefly for those whose nervous fingers cannot avoid the succulent keys. Until 2014, I had never been able to participate because of its unfortunate scheduling. You see, November is the fattiest meat of the fall semester and tough to cut; it's when I have the most day-job work to do. Sure, I could write a draft of a novel in a month - if I had no day job to tend to, if I had no other disruptions, and if I had the idea in advance. But that is really the challenge of it.

I could not participate in the NaNoWriMo celebration of 2016 because I was in the thick of a write-in campaign for President of the United States, as the candidate of the Bunny Party. Needless to say, I lost. (You can read about my defeat here.) By then, there was no more time in the month to write 50,000 words and win it. And if I decide to start, I must win it. I started my epic fantasy tome during that NaNoWriMo, perhaps to distract me from the pain of losing, and got the 55,000 with not too much trouble. The finished novel is 230,000 words but vivid, lean prose.

The 2015 celebration month occurred just as I finished my then-latest novel, A GIRL CALLED WOLF, written mostly during the summer when I was stuck in Beijing, China, teaching a university course. I could not stop preparing it for publication just to start writing something new - something so new that I didn't even have an idea. And I had the busy day-job things to do. So I bowed out.

In 2014, with my vampire novel sent out into the world just in time for Halloween, I was free of projects. I decided to give it a go, hell or high water, day job be damned! I had no idea as of October 31, so I grabbed an unfinished sci-fi novella that had been sitting around for many years and plunked it into the microwave for 90 seconds. Then served it to my NaNoWriMo muse. THE MASTERS' RIDDLE (still a working title) was about a little alien captured by mean Earth people, who escapes and tries to make his way home. For a quartet of weeks it was happening. I thought I would finish it. I "won" by completing 50,000+ words during the 30 days of the month. Granted, I started with a couple thousand and an outline but I finished with more than 55,000 words, anyway, thus earning me a cool sticker. But the novel remains unfinished at about 70,000 words. I lost that loving feeling when I hit a plot conundrum; before I could figure it out, I was compelled back into day-job stuff.

November for me is typically the lull season. The past few years I have had ideas stew during November and take root in a Word file sometime in January or February. I pound the keyboard through the spring months and cruise into the final page somewhere in the middle of the summer. I revise and edit into the fall and voila! a new novel is born. 

Then it hits me: the lull. Writers know what this is and dread it. The Lull Month is full of doubts. Did I just write a bunch of crapola? Will I ever get another idea? What in the world will happen to me if I can't write anything else? 

Then spring comes and everything blossoms - although, for me, it's usually in December or January. And the process starts over again. November? Not the best time for me.

In 2014, I wrote my medical thriller vampire novel A DRY PATCH OF SKIN on the above schedule. In 2015, I wrote a novel about an orphaned Inuit girl who grows up and saves the world, A GIRL CALLED WOLF. Now I am once more in that schedule, having finished the sequel to A DRY PATCH OF SKIN and too busy with revisions to dive into a new project. I am a serial monogawriter, after all. One book at a time. Besides, it's the lull month again and I have no ideas. I still have not finished the sci-fi novel from last year's NaNoWriMo but it would be unfair to try to use that again to achieve some dubious fame. 

There is nobody in my circle who would be impressed at me writing 50,000 words in a month. When I was again stuck in Beijing to teach a course in 2016, I pounded out 72,000 words of my 230,000 word EPIC FANTASY *WITH DRAGONS novel (as well as a 33,000 word erotic novella that shall remain unpublished). Lots of free time, ok? Those who know me, know I can do it. 

This past summer (2017), I wrote 55,000 words of my 2014 vampire novel's sequel, SUNRISE, while sitting in a hotel room in Beijing and teaching a class on the university campus across the street twice a week. (I blogged about that experience here.) However, I've always been a quality over quantity type of person and go through many waves of revision, tweaking a word here or there until I cannot contain the urge more.

Nevertheless, I shall cheer on those who choose to dive once again into uncharted waters - for what could be more uncharted than the lexical spaces within the gray matter of a twisted mind? 

The goal for the blessed celebrants of NaNoWriMo is to create from sacred mind-fire a 50,000 word book. By definition, that is the minimum length for something called a novel. That seems to be easy enough. My previous novels have been in the range of 72,000 to 128,000 words. My epic fantasy, being an epic fantasy, rose to 230,000 words. However, let us not forget the time factor: one month - with the day job looming precariously over everything. That 50,000 word goal means 1,667 words per day for 30 days. You can write that much over lunch - or between classes, as I did. (My students often complain about writing 500 words per week.)

Good luck to all, and to all a long night!

(C) Copyright 2010-2017 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

1 comment: