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The magic of 50,000 words

October is gradually running out, which means November is getting closer and closer.  For those who have never heard of the National Novel Writing Month, this is no big deal.  For those of us addicted to NaNoWriMo (or just plain NaNo), these are the weeks of making the climb up to the high dive board, flexing our knees, and getting prepared to make the Great Leap.  On November 1st we take the dive —  the challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel before December 1st.

The fact that November includes Thanksgiving just adds an extra hurdle to the aforementioned challenge.

I think this will be my third year.  Maybe my fourth — I’m sitting here frowning trying to remember.  I know one year I wrote 51K and some odd, another year it was 61-almost-62K, and last year it was 55K, so I guess that makes this year 4.  Doesn’t cost a penny to sign up (it’s NaNoWriMo.com) although like most non-profits they plead for contributions on the home page — and I admit I’ve always contributed something, since there are a lot of people working on it, primarily computer geniuses to keep the site from bogging down entirely when close to a million people from all over the world start reporting their daily word counts on November 1.  The first two or three days are fairly chaotic, but then things settle down and you can get on the site without too much difficulty, and you have your buddies, whose word count you can check on if you’re the competitive type.  I have my particular buddy and she and I have gone neck-and-neck each year, encouraging each other to greater production.  (I keep track of others, who keep track of me, but usually those are based on more orthodox friendships.)   In between our NaNo spurts, although I see her occasional posts on the loops and I know she sees mine, we don’t communicate much.  But in November, she’s there and I’m there, and it’s very companionable through the ether.  She was grumbling about her masterpiece which wasn’t turning out right last year, so I don’t know if she’s going to be there this year.  We all have our screen names — I’m Skipper, if anyone wants to keep track of me.  Some groups of NaNo people get together in writing clumps to hammer away side by side.  I haven’t tried that before, but maybe this year if there’s a clump close enough geographically, I might grab my laptop and wander over just to see what it’s like.

So what’s the point?  Well, there are good reasons — for one thing, it forces you to write without revising stuff.  If you find you’re down a blind alley you just delete.  You don’t have time to fuss with your prose.  (That’s what the rest of the year is for, and in fact, the WIP I’m currently circulating, polished to a high gleam, is last year’s NaNo effort.)  Your writing is of necessity spontaneous and free-flowing.  Then, too, there’s the incontrovertible fact that it’s like banging your head against a wall:  it feels so good when you stop.  The first week of December is suddenly quiet and stress-free.  You can walk past your computer.  You can have lunch with friends.  You can indulge in casual conversation with your spouse.  Of course then comes Christmas, and you’re back to running like crazy, but that first day or two is marvelous.

I’m giving myself a special challenge this year.  Instead of using NaNo to get a big bite into a full-length novel (the current WIP, for example, is now 97K), I’m going to try category length and see if I can finish the whole thing.  I have one particular multi-published Silhouette Desire friend who’s urging me on.  It’ll be interesting to see if I manage to pull that off.

So that accounts for my November.  What are you planning to do with yours?

8 Responses

  1. I may need to look into doing that, Beppie. I would HAVE to sit my butt down and get my ms finished! It’s great practice. It will give me a deadline, and I will need to have a story finished. I think it is a perfect opportunity! I think I will look into that for next year. I have to get this one finished first because they DID give me a time limit! 😉

  2. Hey hey, jump in any time! The water’s fine. I love it. Part of it is undoubtedly the element of working side by side (sort of) with other people, part of it is competition, part of it is simply throwing yourself into a piece of writing with the mental prep that you’re going to take care of whatever needs fixing later, and just plunge on for the time being. A very liberating feeling!

  3. I’ll be right there with you, Beppie! This will be my third year and each year has been amazing. I surprise myslef. LOL Good luck to you! 🙂

  4. Okay, Melissa — so who will you be, or do you prefer to lurk in obscurity?

  5. LOL! Not a lurker on Nano. 😉 I need all the support I can get! My user name is : mdohno

    I’d love to add some new writing buddies to cheer along! 🙂

  6. See you on the site. I finally got around to signing up for this year, figuring I’d better do it before the inevitable crush of managing to sign in.

  7. Good luck, Beppie.

  8. Thanks, Jane. I can use the luck — unfortunately have to supply the determination myself!

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