It’s December and I am breathing a little more deeply, most definitely a bit more slowly. The pace of life set by NaNoWriMo for the previous 30 days is settling back down—a return to some semblance of normalcy. And even though this writing adventure is a bit crazy, just like every year—this is my third—I realize that I can write every day. The time can be carved out. Of course, some things did fall by the wayside, but even if I can’t always keep up the pace set by NaNoWriMo, I can write every day. I know—I just did it for 30 of them!
That being said, I am very glad it’s December. I will take a few days to catch up on some reading, go to bed when I’m tired, vacuum the floors. And jot the very overdue thank you notes from my daughters’ birthday party last month. (Eeek—cringing at that little oversight.)
Aside from remembering that I can write everyday, I learned something new this time around, too. This year I bent the NaNo rules a bit. You’re “supposed” to start something from scratch—but I didn’t which is decidedly against the guidelines. From the NaNoWriMo website:
“Yes, you do have to start from scratch. No, you can’t co-author a book. Yes, it has to be a novel… And you are required to email your novel into headquarters by midnight, Pacific Time, at the end of the month for word-count verification purposes.”
And these rules are “enforced by an invisible army of flying monkeys.”
In other words, if participating, you had better take these regulations seriously. (I have been looking over my shoulder and up into the sky for those airborne primates all month…)
So, yes, this year I cheated a bit. Instead of starting a brand-new project, I finished an old one. I completed the novel I started for NaNoWriMo 2009, my first year. And now I have a completed first draft. The total word count is off the charts, but I’m sure a lot will be cut and modified in the editing process.
I am thrilled to have finished the novel, but must admit it was a lot less fun than beginning a brand-new project on November 1st. I wrote from a plot line that I formulated long before November began. I followed this road map throughout the month. It was somewhat less inspiring having a known trajectory. There is something exciting and motivating about blank sheets of paper—an empty road ahead. And this year, I missed that excitement.
But this is why I did it. Here are two things I know about myself:
There is no other time of the year when I get as many words down as during NaNoWriMo. Something about that kind of deadline keeps me going.
The other thing is that, in general, I am too busy. I always have too much to do, like most women who are trying to work, parent, take care of their homes. But for some reason, I am able to juggle all of it during November—NaNoWriMo gets it done. Perhaps it’s the idea that it is a manageable 30 days, and you can do almost any work for a short and definitive period of time.
So I used those two factors to my advantage and the long-held goal of completing this manuscript. And here we have it! A first draft of a completed manuscript.
Even though I am relieved to have completed the task, I already miss it a little—that energy NaNo conjures. It’s funny because at the end of NaNoWriMo, I always feel a bit untethered—not sure what to do with myself. I throw myself into the frantic pace of all that writing and then it takes time to get back to the normal rhythms. I want to keep writing like crazy. I love being immersed in the creativity—for me, it’s an embodiment of joy. But real life calls. (I’m folding a huge load of the kids’ laundry as I type this.) So how to reconcile the recalled knowledge that, yes, I can write every day and stop ignoring my children? (Wait? I have three kids?!) I think I need to follow the NaNoWriMo plan of writing everyday with no exceptions allowed, but insert a little bit of balance. Get up an hour earlier everyday or stay up an hour later, not three. Sculpt the word goal down to a more reasonable 750-1000 words per day, rather than 1600-2000.
My lessons: for November, connect with that unbridled joy by starting a new project. I’ll do that for the sheer fun of it again next year. And don’t forget that writing everyday is absolutely possible.
By the way, if you are a NaNoWriMo Winner (CONGRATS!), there are some goodies of which you should be made aware. Create Space offers 5 free print-outs of your NaNo manuscript. Scrivener is offering a half price deal for NaNoWriMo Winners. Scrivener is my latest love—it is a super user-friendly app for writers. You can upload your novel into this richly-featured interface, create chapters and/or sections, then drag and drop for easy formatting. This app makes editing a breeze. Run, don’t walk to scoop up this deal!
And remember, even though November is over, keep on writing!
Melissa Corliss Delorenzo
Melissa Corliss DeLorenzo is a writer, reader, yogini, mom, homemaker and the Associate Editor for Her Circle Ezine. She loves to cook and take long walks with her kids and is a woman who wants to meaningfully exchange and intersect with other women writers. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from the University of Massachusetts and a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. She is at work on several novels. Melissa lives in North Central Massachusetts with her family.