For thousands of writers around the world, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is winding down. Or perhaps, speeding up. In these last days of November, NaNoWriMo participants have less than 48 hours to hit the 50,000 word count goal. Those writers in the winner’s circle are resting on their laurels, while those who can see the finish line are feverishly trying to increase their word count before tomorrow’s midnight deadline.
NaNo’s ending frenzy has not escaped the notice of mainstream media. NPR cracks the whip here. The TEEN section of the Huff Post gives these 7 Tips. And the Boston Globe presents views of those who support and those who criticize the program.
The critics decry the lack of focus on writing excellence and the lack of quality in the finished product. The supporters proclaim the advantages of becoming part of a huge writing community and carving out the time to actually work on the novel so many people always intend to write.
Like so many issues, I understand both positions. But NaNo promoters don’t claim to provide writing instruction or to produce excellent quality. Their focus is empowerment, giving thousands of people the chance to become a novelist.
Once the basic novel is written (and 50,000 words worth of plot is a great start to any story), you can go back over the course of the year to ramp up the quality and add to the quantity (most published novels are in the 80,000-100,000 word range). Theoretically. In my reality, regular writing deadlines eat my time and I rarely get back into my NaNo novels.
I still believe NaNo’s a wonderful way to focus on fiction for one month out of the year. But since I’ve concentrated on starting a new novel for six years, this year I decided to focus on finishing one.
What I found this month was that too many other things kept me from prioritizing fiction. I began November by completing a couple of major nonfiction projects. Then I worked a bit on my novel, but I was continually reminded of commitments that have simmered on the back burner of my brain for months. Some for years. Although I still hope to complete my novel some day, I now realize this was not my month for fiction.
I’m neither resting in the winner’s circle or pushing toward the finish line. I confess I’m appalled by my paltry 8045-word count. But it isn’t that I haven’t been writing. I’ve logged thousands of words in a variety of projects. They simply haven’t been fiction. In a novel.
Before 7:00 this morning I’d already done some important work. I started a load of laundry so I can wear clean clothes today. While enjoying my second cup of coffee, I watched bright clouds herald the sunrise. And I discovered that I could obscure distracting neighbors’ lights behind tree branches by stretching to tip-toed extremities. Then I got out my camera and took some pictures. One captured the crescent moon smiling approval on the colorful dawn.
Do I miss the adrenaline rush of word sprints? The palpable energy of write ins? Absolutely! But I believe that if something is too difficult to write, then it’s not that thing’s right time.
I’m learning to rest in the Lord and wait on his timing, even when I feel mine might be better. Now I need to put the laundry in the dryer and start another load. Then I plan to prepare some food and do some cleaning, which I’m determined to do with a good attitude. Because today I expect to see my out-of-town kids and grands, who trump NaNoWriMo in spades.