To NaNo or not to NaNo?

October is upon us…and that means November is almost here. For the past three years, that’s meant one thing: NaNoWriMo.

In my last post, I mentioned NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for those that were too lazy to Google), and some of the role that it’s played in my development as a writer. In a lot of ways, NaNoWriMo forced me to get serious about my writing…while “forcing” me to have fun with it at the same time. Most importantly, it’s encouraged me to simply write–write with urgency, write with abandon, write as though writing was the most important thing I could possibly do.

For all of these, and many other reasons, I’ve loved NaNoWriMo. In fact, I loved it so much, that I shared it with some of the most special people in my life–my students.

I don’t talk about it much, because this is a personal writing blog, not a teaching blog, but in my real life I am an upper elementary teacher, albeit a young and inexperienced one. One of the first things I did as a newbie teacher was to share the whole crazy-wonderful NaNoWriMo ride with my students through the Young Writers Program (which has excellent free curriculum available, if anyone’s interested). My students loved it as much as I did. I loved watching them discover the joy and accomplishment of novel-writing.

I also discovered that trying to write my own novel at the same time I tried to shepherd them through theirs was a nightmare. I still “won.” I am way too stubborn and competitive not to finish what I start. But the “novel” I produced was juvenile, self-indulgent, and sadly incoherent. I know that NaNo is about quantity over quality, but after Lady of Fortune the previous year, I expected better of myself. I knew I could do better November writing.

Worst of all, it wasn’t even fun.

Unlike my first NaNo year, when I let the craziness fly and rolled with every wild wave of imagination, I was trying to write a coherent story that I had somewhat plotted out. But all I had left to give my own novel was the last scraps of time, energy, and imagination at the end of the day. The best of everything had gone to my students. Writing my novel was frustrating and exhausting. While my students ended up with charming, creative stories with titles like “Charmed and Dangerous” and “The Egg Wars: Fight for Breakfast,” all I had was a unfinished lump of unappealing story fragments.

Now, I wasn’t done writing. Not by a long shot. This summer, in between various odd jobs (and planning for the coming school year), I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo and gave it all the gusto that November’s effort had lacked. The result was a vigorous 50,000 words of Gift of the River, the basis for the draft I am still working on now. While the experience wasn’t exactly the same, it had all of the things I like best about NaNoWriMo–the crazed, frantic writing, the online camaraderie born of mutual writing insanity, forums full of ridiculous questions, long trips to Starbucks, and days full of words and nothing else.

I told myself that this was my new thing. I would do Camp NaNoWriMo in the summers and focus on my students in November.  It was an ideal arrangement, optimizing everyone’s writing experiences.

Only now, the NaNo clock is ticking downward. Now the blogosphere hums with words like “pantser,” “word count,” and “traveling shovel of death.” Now my inbox fills with treacherous promises of kick-off parties and write-ins. Now my brain races with all of the memories of excitement, adrenaline, and caffeine. Now my fingers itch to type out yet another crazy, frantic novel.

…I’m a NaNoWriMo addict and I need help.

I haven’t yet decided what to do. I still have 21 days to make up my mind, after all. But every day the sensible, reasonable part of my brain that tells me about all my other commitments and obligations get quieter and the reckless writer in me gets louder. It’s almost November, she tells me. My time to play.

I’m trying not to listen, but she’s getting more persuasive.

What should I do? What are you doing? Are there any NaNoers out there? Any veterans sitting this year out?

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~ by Morgan Star on October 11, 2012.

3 Responses to “To NaNo or not to NaNo?”

  1. 3-time winner here, not that I actually finished any of the novels I wrote. 😐
    I will be doing it again this year, but I have my doubts as to whether I will manage to cross that 50K-word finish line again.

    That said, I had similar concerns the last three times.

  2. I am going to try to do Nanowrimo for the first time this year and I’m pretty pumped!!:) If you want to do it I would say…YES:D Go for it!

  3. You should give it another shot. It doesn’t hurt to try! Just don’t push yourself too much and don’t think about winning. Just write. =D This will be my fourth… not fifth time. I won three out of four, and I’m pretty excited about this year!

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