NaNoWriMo and Me

As November draws to a close, so does the quest to win NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I put win in italics because the prize is primarily self-satisfaction or bragging rights. Many writers participate the month was designed to get people to put words on the page. Any words toward the goal of writing a novel. The basic premise is to take a blank sheet of paper (or digital variation thereof) and have a shiny bright new idea, and starting November 1st write 50,000 words (averaging 1,667 words a day) by the end of November 30th—a daunting, but theoretically achievable task.



In the past, I have enjoyed cheering on anyone participating in the event. I missed checking up on how people were doing against their goal this year and hearing the excitement as everyone discussed their ideas with such enthusiasm. On November 1st, surrounded by boxes everywhere, I gave a brief thought to those who were dashing off their first words followed by a pensive pang because I'd miss all the excitement. I knew I wouldn't participate this year because the cross-country move I made mid-November put paid to any hopes of completing the task. I'm not an active participant in NaNoWriMo in any year … the self-inflicted pressure of writing a certain number of words or falling short of a goal halts my writing process … but I do enjoy cheering everyone else on.

As a writer, I don't have a daily (or even weekly) word count goal—either when drafting or editing. It may drive my agent crazy, but my process simply doesn't function that way and setting those concrete goals can put the creative brakes on more than it will ever spur me to achieve the goal. So how do I finish anything? It's all about knowing who you are as a writer and being true to your process.

Depending on the book, my process can either be fast or slow or somewhere in between. It depends on the story, the complexity of the plot, and primarily the characters and how well they communicate the story to me. The book I'm editing for what feels like the 3,000th time, South of Happy (Katie McCabe, Book 2), I wrote in 3 weeks, but it took me nine or ten months to complete the first draft edits. While the words simply flowed out of me and I wrote on average 5,000 words a night and between 10k-15k on the weekend days, the resulting manuscript had the makings of a story, but technically it was a big lump of clay that I'd thrown at the wall. A lot of clean up work had to be done to shape it into the story it is today.

By contrast my current WIP (Work in Progress), The Secret of the Red Key (Homeless Myths, Book 1), is taking longer for me to write than any other book I've written. Why? In an odd way, it is taking longer because I have learned more about the craft of writing and am far more deliberate about what I'm doing as I put words on the page. But that also means there will be a lot less mess to clean up when I'm done. 😉

When writing South of Happy, I only knew it was a sequel to the first book, Rain Falling on Embers, and since I had lived with the characters in my head for a while, I merely had to plug in my headphones and turn on my music and the words simply gushed. At that point, I had no idea the story would develop into a five book series.

With The Secret of the Red Key, I have known from almost the outset that it will be a five book series. I don't know the characters quite as well yet, and the plot of this one is far more complex than with the Katie McCabe series. I absolutely love what is going on the page, the characters who keep popping up while I'm in progress, and the direction for the series, but since I'm getting things in a piecemeal fashion instead of linear, it is going to take longer for me to write. But it will be worth the wait.

Congratulations to all who participated in NaNoWriMo 2023 and best wishes as you complete your novel and polish it 'til it shines.

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