Introducing my first guest poster on this spiffy new site: Rhonda Parrish. Rhonda is a twitter acquaintance; she writes fantasy/horror (zombies!) and edits a fantasy and horror fiction magazine, called Niteblade. Since NaNoWriMo season is upon us again, Rhonda is sharing her experiences with this (slightly crazy?) yearly event. (If you want to hear my thoughts on NaNoWriMo, visit Rhonda’s blog to read my guest post over there).
I am not participating in NaNoWriMo this year. The thought startles me. I turn it over in my mind, feeling out the rough edges, then taste it on my lips as I share it with the dog at my feet. He looks up at me, lifts an eyebrow and then, with a sigh, rests his head back on his paws. It may not seem like much to him, but for me that decision is momentous.
NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is held each November. The object is to write 50,000 words in 30 days and the rallying cry is “Quantity over quality”. NaNoWriMo has been around since 1999 and I, personally, have been participating since 2003.
For seven years I have reserved the month of November for “Nanoing” (and yes, I’m sure it’s all right to make that a verb). It has affected my life and my family’s as well. For example, we implemented “No TV” month one November in order to reduce the number of distractions I’d have. Another year, no one in our house was allowed to get the newest World of Warcraft expansion until I was finished my NaNoWriMo novel. My daughter even got involved in NaNoWriMo and when she was in grade two she wrote a 10,000 word NaNoWriMo novel of her own.
NaNoWriMo was fun. Especially when I first started doing it. I liked carrying a notebook everywhere I went, being able to use the phrase “working on my novel” and feeling like, pardon the expression but, a real author. Having an entire community around me who were undergoing the same challenge, the same insanity, that I was, inspired me. I loved that we were all on the same team, cheering one another toward the finish line.
The first time I won (successful participants are called winners) was in 2005 and it changed my life. I had set this crazy goal for myself and then I’d reached it. I had reached it. I’d written a novel! I don’t think I can explain what a boost that was to my self-confidence, in general and especially in regard to writing.
After “winning”, I was hooked. Completely. I was hooked on writing even more than I had been before and hooked on the idea of 50k in 30 days. I was running a NaNoWriMo-based community on live journal, I’d made a lot of fantastic friends and I had a growing number of first drafts, each of which had been written in November.
Then, with enough practice (because I was writing the other 11 months of the year too), writing 50,000 words a day just wasn’t a challenge, and the quantity over quality mindset didn’t work for me anymore. So I started writing first drafts that had a focus on quality, which helped me for one year. Then I noticed something; the huge output of writing in November was burning me out. I would let writing completely take over my life for NaNoWriMo but then my creative reservoir would be completely drained and I wouldn’t write another word of fiction for two or three months while it refilled. It’s like a creative binge and purging cycle and I’m thinking that can’t be healthy.
I struggle with consistency, with creating routines and maintaining productivity, so while NaNoWriMo taught me about goal-setting, community and my own potential, I think that frenetic-paced writing is going to be a thing of the past for me. Something to remember with a smile and a head shake while I try out a new tortoise-inspired writing style; slow and steady wins the race.
After all, people change. Nowadays I wouldn’t even call 50,000 words a novel, but back when NaNoWriMo entered my life I knew so much less than I do now, about the publishing industry and even writing in general. In 2003 I used the words then and than interchangeably and thought the number of dots in an ellipses determined how long the pause they indicated was. Now I am reasonably well-published, my writing is vastly better and I even run an ezine. And though I recognize that maybe NaNoWrimo is no longer right for me, I don’t think I’d have gotten to where I am today without it.
If you’d like to hear more from Rhonda, visit her site at www.rhondaparrish.com