Being a NaNoWriMo Rebel…

rebelSo, it’s that time of year again – the run up to November when a huge selection of writers (both unpublished and published) consider the perils of NaNoWriMo; the frenzy to write 50,000 words of a novel in a month. I find it a brilliant tool to try out ideas and concepts that I think could work as a novel, create characters I need to know more about and determine if plot points are vital enough to make a gripping scene.

But, there are three main things I love about NaNoWriMo:

1) Camaraderie
Everyone involved is trying to do the same thing you are and, as a result, there is a shared understanding for all of our circumstances. When you want to rant about your character not behaving or that your plot is now ruined because your protagonist isn’t doing what they ought to, NaNoWrimos won’t say: “Why are you talking about your characters as if they are real people?”; or “They’re YOUR characters, just write them how you want them”. NaNoWrimos will nod their head and offer some advice, or agree with you or add their own idiosyncratics woes that you haven’t yet experienced but will, because we’re all writers there. Given the supposed solitary nature of writing, NaNoWriMo provides you with instant comrades and a shared experience of something that used to be a private slog, behind closed doors and filled with self doubt.
2) Collective Support
Which brings me nicely around to the second thing I love about NaNoWriMo; everyone is on your side. No matter what happens during November (or either side of it) NaNoWriMos are there for one another. This isn’t about who is the better writer or whose story will turn out to be a bestseller; it’s purely a numbers game. Word after word after word, no matter if those words are the ‘right’ ones. So if you’re only 5,463 words in and it’s day ten when you should have over 15,000 there will be people to cheer you on, to tell you that you can still do it and who will believe in you even when you don’t believe in yourself. When, at a different point in the year you might just throw your hands up and admit defeat, in November you have so many comrades who put their faith in you it encourages you to pick yourself back up and give it another try. And that never gets old.
3) Competition
Finally, NaNoWriMo gets to the very core of what drives people and while this isn’t the central rationale behind NaNoWriMo it can still play a big part. Despite all the camaraderie and support there is still a tiny part of us that wants to write a few more words that those NaNoWriMos whom we adore. As I stated before, it’s not about who the better writer is, or even the one with the killer story: it’s a numbers game and everyone has a fair chance of making it to the big fifty-thousand word marker. On days where you would usually just think, ‘eh, I’ll do it tomorrow’ during November you see that someone you know is three hundred words ahead and suddenly you’re writing again, just to creep ahead of them. Competition is a great motivator and I usually get more done in November than I would in the course of two or three other months of the year.

I’ve taken part three years in a row and, as a result, have three draft novels that I’m moderately proud of. NaNoWriMo taught me how to write; it allowed me the freedom to just get the words on the page and the permission to be a terrible writer for a little while so I could work out how to improve. Consequently, I think that my third novel, from NaNoWriMo 2013, is in pretty decent shape for a first draft.

However, my first ever attempt at a novel – That which is left is lost –  took me a whole year to actually complete drafting (Nov 2011-Oct 2012) and it was in terrible shape. Having spent time trying to edit this shambolic manuscript and, in the end, rewriting the whole thing, I’ve realised that taking another month off to start a new manuscript (despite having two potential ideas) is just not feasible. If I ever want to have something worthy enough to offer to an agent/publisher I need to work on polishing that which I already have.

So, as October began I hung my head and admitted that I wouldn’t be taking part in NaNoWriMo this year. I had to focus on the editing process. I had to commit myself to that. Needless to say I felt disappointed.

Then I reminded myself what I love about November (see above) and how motivating it can be. Every November for the past three years I have committed myself to achieving something and, three years in a row, I have accomplished it feeling like I could rule the world. That is exactly what I need right now: something to work toward, a goal to aim for and the support network and focus that NaNoWriMo gives me – but not for writing, for editing.

Therefore I AM going to take part in NaNoWriMo this year, but I’m rebelling: I’m pledging to use the 50,000 target to motivate me to edit my manuscript. For 1,667 seconds every day I will sit down and focus on the task at hand: whether that be rewriting a section, sculpting a scene to perfection or working out when a particular piece of information needs to be revealed. I will do NaNoEditMo. Yes, it’s a little like the much more official ‘Now What’ months – and I may use these resources for inspiration and information. But this way I still get to take part in the madness of November and feel like a champion when I cross the finish line.

NaNo2014 rebel

And isn’t that what NaNoWriMo is all about; Motivation and confidence and tenacity and determination? I need something, a push to get me editing, to help me make mistakes, to give me permission to try…and NaNoWriMo could be it. It helped me learn to write, now I’m going to use it to pursue my need for editing too.

See you at the starting line folk 😉
At NaNoWriMo.org youll find me under my alter-ego: ankhofbastet

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14 responses to “Being a NaNoWriMo Rebel…

  1. Pingback: How to Prepare for an Editing NaNoWriMo | Cat Lumb: The Struggle to be a Writer

  2. You know, this is exactly what I’m planning on posting on today. I’ve done NaNoWriMo for four years (and each year, at least one of my students have joined me). This year, no one is planning on doing it, and I’m glad because it’ll give me the opportunity to continue editing some work that is inching towards publication (I hope). I’m so glad to hear someone else has the same goal. 🙂

    • I had to check just how long it was before committing, but as it turns out to be just under 30m I thought that was ideal! Hope it might work for you too. Look !e up on the site and we can edit through November together!
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  3. This’ll be my fourth year as well. I like saying that my NaNo 2013 novel was a rebellion itself, since I was rewriting the story I’d done in 2012. Said novel is now published as [i]Darkness Concealed[/i]. I’ll be doing the sequel to it this year, which means I’ll be right there to poke you about your editing progress. Sound good?

    • Sounds excellent. Will probably need it! That’s what I love about November – lots of people all trying to get on with writing, and succeeding at it, despite even more people to interact with!

  4. I plan to do something similar for similar reasons. I haven’t touched my WriMo from last year and I don’t want to start a new one and leave the old one unfinished. It fees like abandonment! Best of luck to you and know that even as a rebel, you’re never alone! 🙂

    • Thanks Sam! I agree that it can be so tempting just to start something new rather than return to the existing stuff, but I really feel I need to practice editing if I’m to grow as a writer and NaNo is such a great opportunity to build a new good habit and try new things! And, as you say, even for rebels the community is welcoming.
      Good luck with your own NaNo – look me up on the site and we can cheer each other on!

  5. I really like the three good things you’ve listed about NaNoWriMo. They definitely apply to my regional group: we’ve been meeting up through the year since last NaNoWriMo so we’re very close knit going into this!

    It’s good that you’ve still decided to take part in your own way – best of luck!

    • Thanks. Love that you continue the camaraderie throughout the year – hope it will encourage even more success for your group this November. I’ve “met” some amazing people via NaNo. It’s great to have a crowd who instantly share your passion (and its troubles!).

  6. A great post, Cat, especially as my blog post this week was ‘Shall I or Shan’t I?’ regarding participating in NaNoWriMo. I’m at the stage where I need to get that first draft finished so hope that it can motivate me to do just that. Good luck with your editing!

    • October comes around and it’s always “Shall I or Shan’t I”? Even if I forget the date, somehow my brain knows and nudges me. I really don’t think I could make it a year without ANY NaNo participation. It’s my motivator, so am hoping it can work some magic for editing too!
      Good luck finishing that first draft! Thanks for stopping by! 😉

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