Okay, so technically NaNoWriMo started 12 days ago, but I've always been a little slow to the draw. What does it all mean, you ask? Why, it's National Novel Writing Month, silly! An amazing annual event where people pledge online to produce a full first-draft of a novel during the month of November. Every year, I think about doing it, and every year I chicken and/or flake out. This year is no exception. However, the friends I know who are participating in NaNoWriMo -- brave souls all -- are at least serving as grand inspiration. If they, and countless others, can commit to being this dedicated for a month, then so can I. Sort of.
You might remember me babbling on a few months ago about how I'd started writing my first novel. Or maybe you didn't notice because I was too shy about it to speak above a whisper. Well, I started off on a pretty good roll. I hit the ground running. I knocked out 90 pages in no time. And then I ran out of gas.
Part of it was due to some physical stuff that sidelined me for nearly three months, leaving me with barely enough energy to bathe, let alone focus on anything. That part probably couldn't have been helped. However, I also made the mistake of reading, re-reading and editing major portions of the first few chapters instead of just barrelling through and finishing the entire first draft. I got hung up on details, I got overly critical of and relentlessly negative about what I'd produced instead of -- and, yes, it makes me want to puke when I say this -- nurturing it.
So I did what any self-respecting first-time novelist would do in that situation: I just stopped writing. I was catatonic. If I knew where the story was heading, I couldn't come up with the words to get me there. If I came up with a sentence, I didn't know where it was all heading. Fortunately, even in the midst of this madness -- which kept me up nights worrying about not writing -- I never packed it in mentally. I just couldn't shake the story or the narrator and I suppose I knew on some level that I'd return to it at some point. I just wasn't sure it would be in this lifetime. That's where NaNoWriMo came in. I couldn't fathom the idea of starting -- and completing -- a whole new novel, from scratch. But I could certainly use it as inspiration to commit to some daily writing of my own.
I've been shooting for 500 words a day. I figure if it worked for Hemingway, it might be good enough for me. And so far it has been. I also thought it might do me some good on the accountability tip to at least write about that commitment here on my blog. I figure the more people I tell, the better chance I have of actually following through.
So there you have it. I'm writing a novel. Or trying to. I'm committing to 500 words a day. Not good words. Not even words that make sense. Not even words I'll necessarily keep. Just 500 words, at least, that keep the project in motion. As my good friend Margaret often says, "The universe rewards forward progress." I think that applies here too. I just want to finish a first draft so I can be freed up to worry about the details, rewriting and editing.
I'm also leaning heavily on this quote by author E.L. Doctorow about the process of writing a novel: "It's like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."
I'm counting on it.