A Nano Victory

50k in November 2014!

Winner-2014-Web-Banner

As I said on Twitter, 50k in a month is not, in itself, that much of a challenge for me anymore. I’ve done it enough times that I certainly know I can. But there’s still something so cool about doing it with other people, all striving for the same goal in the same time frame. And it is important to sort of reset my focus. After the heavy editing I was doing the past few months, I had sort of gotten off-track when it came to generating totally new material. Nano helped re-align my discipline.

Of course, I was also a Nano Rebel, so my discipline was perhaps lacking in that regard. Only about 30k of those 50k were on one project — a space opera that’s actually based, quite tangentially, on the very first thing I ever tried to write, at the tender age of 11. It’s a concept I return to every once in a while, reworking and reimagining. No idea if this most recent iteration will take root in a way that will be useable later, but I enjoyed playing with the main character, particularly. I wanted to take a roguish, devil-may-care, Han Solo-like figure… but make that character female, and also make her the central protagonist of a traditional hero’s journey. It’s not meshing together quite as I’d like yet, but the seeds are there, and I might be able to do more with them later.

The remaining 20k came from not one, not two, but three others — all of them in the Aven universe. One is a few scenes from the immediate sequel. I haven’t written much of that, but sometimes I was just getting the itch to spend time with my familiar, beloved characters rather than building whole new ones — so that’s what I did. The two others take place 200 years and 500 years on, respectively, and were full more of world-building than of plot or character, really. I’ve been trying to sort out how the political realities will shift and reshape over time — which may then help me work backwards to find the correct path for the conclusion of the current story. It’s a fascinating way to think, as a historian — playing out the alternate possibilities that my domino-flicking changes create. Will anything come of those? Maybe. I don’t know. But if anything, it’s giving me a new angle on the world I’ve been living in for so much of the past few years, and that’s always exciting. I don’t feel bad about being a Nano Rebel in this way, because the important thing for me is no longer to make sure I finish a single project — I know I can do that — it’s making sure I make room for writing in my daily life. Switching between projects made sure that I didn’t lose that joy. Writing is a job, for me, but it shouldn’t be a chore. Giving myself a little extra freedom, even if it was outside Nano’s strictest boundaries, made sure my heart stayed as engaged as my head.

The thing that does make this year’s win a bit impressive, in my opinion, is that I actually did it in 21 days. I was in Disney World at the start of the month, so I had an 8-day deficit to come back from. A few 4k days brought me back up to speed — but 4k days aren’t easy to come by, either in terms of time or creativity. You have to really want it. I owe a shout-out to @NanoWordSprints for helping me with that — their prompts and pushes are a great way for me to keep myself on task (and not, say, Tumbling or Pinning).

Nano2014stats

This is, if not the very latest I’ve won Nano, then pretty close. Most years that I have won, I’ve done so around the 25th. Was this year slower because of that 8 day deficit? Maybe — but I caught that up pretty fast, then just stayed right about on pace the last week or so. Perhaps it’s because the Thanksgiving break usually falls a bit earlier? It’s easier, not just to find the hours to write, but to find the brain space when I’m not sitting down to it after work. But that’s just an excuse, really — I’m perfectly capable of pounding out a thousand words even when I’ve worked 14 hours at my other two jobs (or, as happened a few times this month, after getting home from a 4 hour Star Wars: Edge of the Empire campaign session).

To all my fellow Nano-ers, whether you’ve won already or not, whether you think you’ll make it in tomorrow or not — Congratulations to you! Taking on a project like this is a success in of itself, and it makes us all a part of something pretty special.

#WhyNaNo?

For anyone who missed it, there was a pretty incredible National Novel Writing Month chat on twitter today: #WhyNaNo. It’s part of #NaNoPrep — a chance for veteran Nanoers to talk about what keeps us coming back and to convince the potential newbies to join in the madness. The conversation was lively and inspiring, and it got me thinking about my own reasons for Nanoing over the years.

Why (quoteymcquote)Why did I start to Nano? To show off. 2001, senior year of high school, and I mostly wanted to prove that I could. And I did! Though it was far from good — a lot of self-indulgence, a lot of waffling, a lot of fanfiction muddled with original stuff (not that there’s anything wrong with fanfic). But I did 50k in a month, and it felt good. My friends and I read bits of it aloud at lunchtime and giggled a lot, and their encouragement kept me going.

Why did I keep Nanoing? I discovered how much I liked it. And I wanted to keep showing off. In college, it was pretty easy. For as much as college students complain about overwork, even at William & Mary (where your best hasn’t been good enough since 1693), I had free time. And finals weren’t till December, which left me days after Nano to write those papers. So I kept pounding out stories that, in retrospect, weren’t very good. But some of that went to creative writing classes as well, and one of them held the seed of a project that I still turn over in my mind every couple of years, hoping to find the right angle on it. And someday I will.

Why did I stop Nanoing? Graduate school happened to me. And a working adult life happened to me. Man alive can those things, however wonderful they are, suck the ability and the energy for creative writing out of you. Particularly, in my case, because I was doing so much academic writing (and still do, at work), which is an entirely different skill set. My graduate thesis left no room in  my brain for creative endeavors, and for the first year I was working, it was just too hard to come home and make myself sit down in front of a blank screen again. I gave up on Nano for a couple of years the same way I’d given up on almost all creative writing.

Why did I start Nanoing again? Because I hated that I’d given up on creative writing. I knew I still had stories in me. I’ve wanted to be a novelist since I was eleven, and I hated that I’d lost sight of that. So I used Nano as a kick in the ass to find it again. And it worked. Aven began life in Nano 2011. It bears little resemblance now to what it was then, but that was the start. I immersed myself in a new world for the first time in years, and I gloried in it. I got back into the habit, and I’ve managed to keep it up in the three years since. 1667 words a day no longer scares me. 3000 words a day is a stretch, most of the time, but I know it’s not impossible, so it doesn’t scare me either. One Sunday during this past summer of revisions, I managed over 6000 words in a day. That Nano was a major step on the path of turning me into a working writer, not just someone who daydreams about being a writer. I made myself do it, discovered that I could, and decided that I must.

Why do I keep Nanoing? For the joy. It’s still a great activity. I’ve Nanoed and Camp Nanoed these past few years, with varying degrees of success. I used the Camps of the Summer 2012 to finish Aven‘s first draft, so those went well. But sometimes I fall on my face — life gets in the way. Or, it’s been a month where editing and revising Aven took precedence over creating something new. I don’t beat myself up about it — I know I have the habits now. I know I can’t write 3k or even 1k every single day of my life. But Nano got me into the pattern of doing it regularly, of always working on something, new or old. I do like being able to participate properly in November, though — there’s a delicious energy to it, the mania of keeping up, the excitement in the forums, the challenges and sprints and encouragement on Twitter.

Why will I Nano this year? If I do, that is. It will depend on where Aven is, really. It’s likely that it will be out to editors, and I’ve learned that the very worst thing I can do is look at the manuscript while it’s out with others, because that will just make me crazy. So, if that’s the case, I’ll Nano, for the joy, and for something to keep me occupied while we’re waiting to hear back. It’ll be a challenge this year, since I’ll be spending the first week of November at Disney World — but I’ll give it a go anyway. Just to see what I can do.

So how many of y’all have Nanoed before? What drove you to it? What have you gotten out of it?