Participation in the 2012 National Novel Write Month was one of the most useful exercises I have undertaken as a writer. I think it should be required of every literature/writing student in the country.
Again, National Novel Write Month (Nanowrimo, as we call it on the streets) is a program in which writers commit to completing a 50,000 word novel in the expanse of 30 days--a daunting task to be sure In that time, the participants are encouarged simply to write without their inner editor, to allow themselves the freedom of a horrible but finished first draft, to get the book out of their system and accomplished, albeit poorly at first. It may be one of the most freeing and enjoyable writing activities presently available in a widespread community model.
So, I participated, and I completed a first draft of a novel. Frankly, my first draft was far more of an extended treatment than a solid novel. What it needs is twice as much real content of things happening rather than things being described as happening. Regardless of when the next drafts are completed, I took some great experiences from my first Nanowrimo. Here's are three bullet points.
* Nanowrimo reignited the joy of writing as discovery. Without an outline for my NanoWrimo book, I was just running toward an unknown destination, generating whatever story I could muster at a given moment. This process pulled influences from the recesses of my mind in ways I did not expect and opened a wonderful outlet to dormant ideas. I have a good number of myths, stories, themes, and motifs sitting in the dusty closet of my soul and during Nanowrimo, many of these items were put in a blender and returned to the surface (which has provided fodder for even more work in addition to the aforementioned somewhat bearable first draft).
*Nanowrimo reignited the joy of writing as expression. I began Nanowrimo while doing a simultaneous 4th and 5th revision of my first novel, and the freedom of writing without editing was essential to keeping my love of this of work. As I kinda said here "the work of writing is editing", and that is true--thus, being able to simply write without an outline or expectation was a blast. In as much as editing involves finding the best way of saying a given thing, it also involves murdering your most beloved phrases and anecdotes when they serve the self instead of the story. Nanowrimo provided some much-needed embellishment to just say something how I felt like saying it in a given moment--I don't even allow myself that luxury here on the blog.
*Nanowrimo gave me a sense of accomplishment. Being unemployed and having my first novel in something of a holding pattern during November, I was in need of a win. If nothing else, NanoWrimo gave me that. In addition, telling folks I've written a novel makes me sound like every self-publishing blogger who thinks they have the next Harry Potter in their desk drawer. Telling them that I have completed one novel, written another to be edited, and, now, I am in the process of completing another while outlining more; well, it just makes me feel like more of an author and not a fly-by-night vanity writer (although the very fact that I am blogging may challenge that very statement).
So, anyway, we are only ten months away from the next NanoWriMo, and I am obviously looking forward to it. I encourage any of the would-be authors or writers reading this to send me a line, and let's plan to keep in touch during Nano2013. Maybe we can even exchange horrible first drafts after the fact.
Thanks for reading,