This morning, four days shy of the deadline, I finished my 50,000-word “NaNoWriMo” (National Novel Writing Month) novel. The novel actually strayed about 700 words longer than the required word count, and that included wrapping up the story VERY fast at the end. I realize, of course, that I didn’t have to stop at 50,000 words. But I wanted to stick to the goal and allow the project to be what it was meant to be. So I wrapped up my story when I hit the 50,000 word mark knowing that in the future if I revise it, the whole thing will be much different and more drawn out. The real work will begin if and when I decide to turn this very rough, loose draft into a real novel.
Still, it feels like a true accomplishment to have sat down every morning in November (with the exception of Thanksgiving) to complete the project. It also felt good to “write with abandon,” as NaNoWriMo encourages — to forge ahead and let the characters appear and the story develop in a free, easy, and even cliche form, without worrying about the quality of the language or even the story itself just yet. Ideas came and went, the story flowed, names were silly, the plot was a little too neat, and everything wrapped up much too quickly so that I could finish the draft on time. But none of that matters. What matters, according to the NaNoWriMo website, is simply to reach for the goal and complete it — to get the words out. The site also claims that I can now call myself a “novelist,” but I’m not sure I would go that far.
What the effort did do for me was boost my interest in writing fiction and learning more about the craft of that genre. But it also taught me a few things that I can apply to my ongoing work in creative nonfiction. It is so important to let your mind go in early drafts and to prevent that critical editor that sits on your shoulder from stopping you from moving forward. There is plenty of time to strive for perfection during the revision process. And for me, it’s also important to have specific goals and even to set deadlines.
Well, NaNoWriMo is over for me. But it was a great experience, and if you’re interested in trying to hammer out a first draft of a novel while testing your discipline under a deadline, I encourage you to try it next November.
Anyway, a little congratulatory video declares you a “winner” when you upload your novel and the word count is verified, and it’s always nice to be called a winner. It’s funny, when I think about it, how that word can mean so many things.