First off, no, I did not get to 50,000 words. Not even close.
Second off, did I learn anything from my National Novel Writing Month experience? Yes. Read on.
Early on, within the first week of my NaNoWriMo journey, the unthinkable happened. I accidentally deleted the entire 4,300 word file that was my novel. I had violated my own first rule of writing – backup, backup, backup.
After a whole Sunday afternoon and evening of futilely attempting to recover, I accepted the fact that my first draft had ended up in the recycle bin with a bunch of other files and photos I had deleted . . . and once deleted . . . gone forever.
As a journalist who is used to working under deadlines and, in fact, needs them in order to motivate herself, I felt adrift. Nothing to show for my efforts.
I hadn’t lost the great American novel, but I had deleted some good work and with it much of my motivation and enthusiasm to continue along the NaNoWriMo trail, especially as others gleefully proclaimed on the blogosphere, "I'm up to 23,000 words after 10 days!"
I posted my experience of deleting my draft on Facebook and one friend commiserated: Lordy, Lordy, girl. Hope you can get it back somehow. If not, I'm SURE there are a great many more than 4,200 words in you - at the ready - clamoring to to get out. That said, the idea of just randomly losing what I've written is right up there at the top of "My Worst Nightmares" list .
That, didn't make me feel better. Sadly, pathetically, I was now eight days behind . . . or more than 16,000 words behind where I “should” have been after week one in the quest to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. (I know. Ridiculous!)
So, it was back to the proverbial square one. Take a deep breath and begin again from the blank page.
I knew there was something there – the story unfolding of two very different, but connected women – an Episcopal priest and a writer . . . much of my story being forged by my own life encounters, as well as the many newspapers I read every day, articles about politics and the culture wars.
I was doing what those in the NaNoWriMo culture advised – writing again with an uncensored pen.
What I began learning is that working on this book was very much like writing my last three books. I need to feel inspired by – passionate about this story. And I wasn’t . . . until last week when NaNoWriMo was all over and I started rereading my second "first" draft.
This time I had gotten up to 3,600 words and liked what I was reading. There was something useful there, something of an interesting story developing.
So here’s what I learned from NaNoWriMo:
- It’s a gimmick, but an interesting one and by trying it out I’ve come up with some good “fiction”.
- I’m not interested in turning words out like widgets.
- I am – and have always been, especially the older I get – adverse to competition. The only competition that drives me is the competition within myself.
- I’m not in need of finding a community of writers (cheerleaders) online. I don’t have the time to get involved with chat rooms and online groups to share status reports and updates.
- I don’t worry too much about the wording, the descriptions or the details and joined the spirit of the event by writing with an uncensored pen. I can go back later and hone, refine, but the important thing . . . get the thoughts and the ideas down while fresh in my mind.
- I may need to get out my small tape recorder and start talking into it, capturing my thoughts at mid-day, in the evening before dinner..
- Fortunately or unfortunately, for me, events and real experiences in my life drive my writing. At heart, I am a nonfiction writer, but whoever pretended that most novels aren’t based in memoir or nonfiction? Not me, that’s for sure.
Yes, life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get when you start writing fiction. That’s half the fun of it. You don’t have to worry about accuracy like you do in memoir.
It feels really good to have a writing project. That is one truism that has never changed for me since I was thirteen years old and began writing love letters to Paul McCartney – the time flies when I’m writing.
And now, really, who can ask for more than that? So, yes, in that regard, thank you NaNoWriMo.