Monday, December 2, 2013

A Post About Writing is Almost About Books, Right?

I know I usually start my posts with the three books I'm most excited we received in the kids section but November/December isn't really a heavy release time so this time I'm going to skip that part. Sorry. If you want to know which books I'm excited about feel free to ask!

I am writing this post on December 1st. This is relevant because it means that I can say that last month I took part in the mammoth NaNoWriMo.

For those who don't know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Writers are challenged with writing 50,000 words during the month of November (roughly 1,667 words a day). It's supposed to be a new project, one you haven't started yet. The idea is to have a rough draft of a novel done by the end of the month or, if you're me, to have a good start on a new one (I like words way too much to ever be done at 50,000).

This means that I spent most of the last month in a mental writing haze. You see, I have a bit of an obsessive streak and when you register for NaNoWriMo you get your very own graph to chart your word count. Let me tell you, you have not see obsessive until you give someone a graph to chart their daily progress. I start by being completely crazed about staying on track. Soon enough that is not enough and I have to do more. Those bars have to be above the line.

Basically, I have a lot of fun with it but usually end the month twitchy and totally worn out. It's worth it even if it doesn't end up being a project that I keep working on because, if nothing else it reminds me how important it is to write, even a little, every day.

Oddly enough, NaNoWriMo is kind of a controversy online. Plenty of writers are big fans of it. Rainbow Rowell wrote about half of her novel Fangirl during it one year. Erin Morgenstern's worked on The Night Circus over a couple (I can't even call her out on it because the book is so wonderful). There's a pretty awesome list of author who've written pep talks here.

But on the other side there are plenty of authors who aren't fans. My personal favorite author Maggie Stiefvater is sort of infamous for hating it. Last Monday I asked David Levithan how he felt and he agreed with her. They don't hate that people are writing, they just don't like the way the program is set up. And as much as I love NaNoWriMo I can see why.

I love NaNoWriMo because it's a tool that keeps me going. It gets me back on track after a year of letting myself get bogged down by work and the internet and my tendency to adopt new hobbies on whims. Sometimes I need to stop editing the same project to death and work on something new and NaNoWriMo encourages me to do that. But I'll admit that I could never finish a novel in a month with everything else I have to do and in my word count obsessive state my writing isn't always the best. Some people get really carried away by it and some people just can't write like that. Honestly, some people shouldn't write like that.

For me a big factor has always been what sort of project I've been writing. In 2011 my project was the perfect sort of thing for it. The sort of novel where dialogue is what's most important. I love dialogue, I could write it all day long. In 2012 I was working on a fictionalization of my time working in a chocolate store, that one didn't work as well. I spent too much time trying to decide how true to life it could or should be and reflecting. This year my project needed a lot of world building and had a plot that's intricate and involved, one that I probably didn't draft out as well as I should have.

And while I'm pretty sure that I'm going to toss a fair amount of this year's work, I learned from what I did. Learned how much I needed to have drafted, what sort of work I should have done before. I realized what kind of research I still needed to do. I didn't write a novel but I used NaNoWriMo as a tool to get started.

We get a fair amount of people in the store who want to write. I'm not published or anything, not even close but I think I recommend that if they do want to write that they try NaNo just once. They don't have to do it in November but just accept the challenge. It's a great way to find out a little more about how you do write. Skim the list of pep talks. Most of the authors didn't finish their novels but the learned from trying it out.


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