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Hey Kids, only two weeks until the time when we set aside our mundane lives to slip into a new personality, restock our candy hoard, shamble ghostlike through the daytime hours, frighten anyone who happens to come to our door and stay up very, very late.  Yes, that’s right, it’s NaNoWriMo time!

Writing by the light of it in November

National Novel Writing Month is creeping up once again and this time it looks scarier than ever. Why? Because even though I’m in the middle of rewriting a 160K word project and have two more already lined up in the queue, I can well imagine my Evil Other self dreaming up yet another entirely unnecessary project to add to my workload, just so that I can play along.  Yes, I love NaNoWriMo that much. I’ve done it and won it seven times now.  And how many of those wildly written first drafts have been turned into submission worthy manuscripts?  Hey look, something shiny over there!

But seriously folks, as of today, I’m nearing the completion of two NaNo novels, so yes something productive has been accomplished in those seven Novembers.  But really, it’s never bothered me to have a teetering pile of first drafts gathering cobwebs, because in NaNo Land, I really do believe it’s the journey that counts, not the marketable manuscript.

For me, NaNo is the time to clear the pipes, blow off literary steam and demolish the inner editor. Usually when November rolls around I’m hip deep in some long drawn out rewrite of a novel I’ve come to hate, and the idea of a no-holds-barred, fresh idea sounds like writing Nirvana.  November is when I get unstuck and remember how much I love the pure creation of a story.  NaNo gets me fired up to get back to the rewrite and Own That Thing. NaNo gets me bonding with writing friends, drinking way too much coffee, and freeing the wild dogs of my subconscious that are otherwise kept on way too short a leash.

I’ve read some snooty comments about how there’s too much bad writing in the world as it is. These people seem to fear that everyone who writes 50,000 words in November will immediately dash over to Smash Words and throw up their horror of a manuscript online, thereby filling up all of cyberspace and ruining it for the slow writing snoots. Maybe some do and that’s what I’d call an ill-advised career move, because NaNo is all about first drafts, or maybe even over-elaborate outlines. I think the snooty naysayers are just jealous that so many people are having fun doing what the snoots like to imagine is an elitist, graduate student only sport.  Fooey, says I.

NaNo isn’t about getting published.  It’s about writing.  There’s a difference.  NaNo is about freeing yourself to write exactly what you want. It’s about proving to yourself that you can finish a novel.  It’s about discovering if you’ve got what it takes to push through the long dark tea time of your creative soul* to make it to “the end”.  Bright and shiny ideas are so easy to come by.  Wonderful first chapters flow easily from the fingertips.  It gets harder and harder, the rock you’re rolling uphill heavier and heavier, the doubts louder and louder as the words pile up.  NaNo is about persistence in the face of failure, because it’s so easy to mistake that smelly, incoherent, steaming pile of a first draft for a failure, if you stop to think about it.  NaNo is about not thinking. Thinking comes later, in December.

Why fight the irresistible lure that is NaNo?  Don your unwashed, up-all-night, wired-on-Snickers writer persona, and join me, if you dare.

*The long dark tea time of the soul is a phrase brazenly stolen from Douglas Adams’ novel of the same name.

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