Well, now that November is 12 days old, NaNoWriMo is ending the second week. With a goal of 1,667 words a day, I should be completing just over 20,000 words today.
But I’m not. I should make it well past the 3,000 word mark today. And though that’s not on track for winning this year’s NaNoWriMo, I’m actually very pleased with myself.
So far, my NaNoWriMo story (with the terrible title Mars Attack [it desperately needs to be finished so it can tell me a better title]) is the longest work of fiction I’ve written. I write a lot of very short stories and rambling blog posts, but I don’t usually write even short-stories. The only other venue I’ve written so many words in was the MA, but even there I ranged on the short side of all the writing. My thesis, the giant paper that I spent almost 2 years researching and writing in order to get my degree, was short at almost 70 pages.
What’s exciting to me as a writer about this NaNoWriMo story is that I’m still not done. I’m still in the beginning of the story and new characters keep appearing. The scene that first showed up in my head of a woman in a hallway trying to put distance between herself and her foot (which was still attached to her leg) hasn’t shown up yet. We aren’t even in space. I’m not even entirely sure how we’ll get there, but I’m looking forward to watching the story unfold.
I also realized that my need for a hard writing deadline isn’t limited to academic writing. I write fast because I have always written my papers at the last minute. Because when I was in school (and as I’m looking to go back to school), I found that everything was more interesting than writing my paper. But this wasn’t merely ADD, it was actually part of my writing process.
Some writers get entire ideas in their head, or they are able to take the germ of an idea and organize it through an outline. These writers (who are most of the professional writers) provide great thoughts on structure and the process of creating stories with authentic characters and places. Jennifer Hudock and Mur Lafferty are fantastic examples of that. And when I really began toying with the idea of writing, their styles provided possible pathways for me to follow as I grew as a writer. And I tried their recommendations and following their examples during last year’s NaNoWriMo, but I ended up quite discouraged when it didn’t work for me. It wasn’t until I read a post by Neil Gaiman about his writing process (or it could have been at a speaking engagement I saw him at or his twitter feed, I don’t really remember) and thought through some of the other advice from Jenny and Mur, that I remember what I’d learned and taught during the MA.
Everyone’s writing process is different, and that’s perfectly fine.
The trick to writing, if there is one, is finding out what works for you as a writer. I have found that if I have an idea, it’s best to either write a brief note to myself or leave it until I can write the whole story. Outlining is out. Every outline I have ever attempted has either stalled with the second word or turned into the whole story.
My writing style is very messy and apparently disorganized. But I have a system that works for me. Whether it works well or not is still to be determined, and I’m content with the fluidity. I also realize that my dedication will need to get better if I ever want to move to the small category of “I make stuff up, write it down and get money.”
But for now, I’m having fun stretching my story writing muscles through the fun game of NaNoWrimo.