For those of you not familiar with the acronym, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing in a Month. Ignoring the awkward construction of the title, the premise is simple. People around the world are encouraged to write, write, write every day for the month of November — binge-writing, if you will — to produce a 50,000-word manuscript.
There are LOTS of views about NaNoWriMo, ranging from “everybody just writes crap, it’s quality that counts” to “what a great way to just blast through and remember what’s fun about writing.” There is an equal number of views about HOW to do NaNoWriMo, including from those who plot and plan in advance (plotters/planners) or who write by the seat of their pants (panters).
But I really enjoy the premise. This isn’t a Hallmark commercial thing, the “organization” that came up with the idea is a not-for-profit. Sure, there are lots of commercial options out there tied to NaNoWriMo for trackers, notebooks, mugs, websites, webinars, writing groups, etc., but at its core? It’s writers talking to writers and encouraging them to do nothing more than put their butt in their seats and write. Maybe the 50K will never amount to anything more than the wordcount itself. Maybe you’ll never turn the doc into a book or even look at it again. It’s a small writing milestone where the journey is the goal, not the destination.
Most Novembers, I ignore it. At least, I don’t aim for 50K, I don’t join the community groups, I don’t post updates, I don’t “do” NaNoWriMo in conventional terms. I often try to write a bit more, maybe blogging, for example. Or editing.
This November, I’m fully committing to writing SOMETHING, I just have to choose which WIP, as I have three that are up for grabs. Although, technically, there are six, I suppose, but three aren’t ready for primetime.
My HR Guide
I have been promising / threatening to finish the damned doc for four years now, and I never quite get around to writing it from beginning to end. There’s a solid old draft, and I do bits and pieces, but then I think of something else and I restart a section. Or COVID hits and everything changes for the process. Or there are tons of “new” features to talk about in each section. It is truly evergreen, but I want to FINISH a version in time to release it on January 1st as the 2022 edition. Fortunately enough, it was about 50K words for the 2017 edition. Not a novel, not a lot of “fun”, but a workable product.
My Astronomy Guide
This one is probably too nascent in development to really start blasting through. A couple of the sections I could do easily enough, but there are some that require a lot more research before I can write them. Not really the best option for a NaNoWriMo binge if I have to keep stopping to research stuff. I’ll pass on this one.
Novel 1 and 2
I have two novels in mind for a character, whose initials are CC, and that’s about all I’m going to say at this point. I started writing #2 some time ago, and I was struggling with too much exposition to try and deal with some extended backstory. Until I realized that the main problem was that the novel shouldn’t really be the first book in the series. I actually needed to start with Novel #1, because a whole bunch of stuff that comes up in CC01 is enough to have a whole separate novel, and much easier to plot in linear order than constant flashbacks as a first novel. So CC02 is definitely “out of contention”, I have to do CC01 first. The problem? Well, there isn’t one. I could easily choose CC01 as a perfectly valid choice for NaNoWriMo. It’ll probably be closer to 80K, but that’s a small detail to be ignored. My only hesitation is that I feel like if I get sucked into the novel, I might never come back to finish my HR guide. Perhaps “work before pleasure” is the better side of writing valour?
My Performance Guide
This one is so far removed from development, it barely qualifies as an idea. And yet a little bit of work and I’d be off to the races. But I would never finish my other guides, and the performance guide can wait until I retire. I may even have a chance to do some preliminary work that will make such an endeavour easier but might be a conflict of interest, although more “perception” than “real”. So that one is out too.
Novel Series, YOTG #1-12
For a very long time, I have had a movie projected in my head. It’s disjointed, some parts are missing, but it is a story told in at least 12 parts. Over the last 18m of COVID, my view of that series has changed. I thought it was something I wouldn’t touch until I retire. And yet a few times recently, I’ve had a sudden flash of a scene that was missing, giving me an enhanced feel for YOTG01. I know what happens generally in #01 (80%), 04 (30%), and 12 (60%). I don’t feel I’m ready to write these novels, that I can’t do them justice yet, my writing ability isn’t good enough for them. So, again, a pass. I won’t be able to wait until my retirement to start them, but perhaps 2023 at least. I’m ruling this one out.
The showdown is between my HR Guide and my first CC novel. The pros and cons are relatively clear…
I want to finish the HR Guide, it is more “pressing” so to speak, and if I spend the next month on the CC novel and perhaps carrying over into December, I might not finish the HR guide by January.
The HR Guide is a manageable project, I know exactly what is required, and I can finish within the month. It’s almost a guaranteed win. The CC novel, by contrast, is still stuck in the opening chapters, and I am not sure yet if I’m sure who the extra suspects are, let alone how I get them all to the murder scene to make them viable suspects. Which means I could get stuck half-way through and NOT reach my NaNoWriMo goal.
By contrast, the HR Guide is NOT a novel, nor is it a new project. The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to blast through something new. Am I cheating by having something in draft mode, even if I have to completely re-write major portions of it? Novels work well for the binge. A guide? Not so much.
Yet the CC novel would be scary fun. I literally have no idea where parts of it will go, and I know sitting down at the keyboard, the words will come from somewhere. I know my style well enough to know that I can “dream my solution” as I type, although it may mean going back to cut some of the drivel once I know the path. Smoothing out the story trajectory, as they say; eliminating meandering streams of consciousness, as I say.
Pressing and manageable vs. new and fun?
And the winner is…
The HR guide. Another thought occurred to me, which is that if I do the novel first, I’ll likely push the guide back another six months. On the other hand, if I finish the guide in November and edit it in December for release in January, I just might be enamoured enough of the novel to start writing right away.
So I’m going to finish the HR guide for NaNoWriMo. Jacob is going to join me in the writing quest. He’s working on a novel, probably middle-grade level, with a likely length somewhere around 30-40K. He has a title and even the cover. I don’t know if he’ll stick with it, but I’m already proud of him for trying. Of course, he’s already a published author as part of a group writing course he did last summer, so he’s got a leg up on me. Maybe he’ll give me tips as we go. Andrea’s going to write some stuff for ToastMasters as well.
Writing as a family for NaNoWriMo? That sounds like #MoreJoy to me.