I know NaNoWriMo officially ended two days ago, but it was a holiday weekend here in the U.S. and I was busy celebrating Thanksgiving. Plus, it’s a tradition in my family to put up our Christmas decorations during Thanksgiving weekend.
You may have noticed my fancy-schmancy NaNoWriMo winners widget to the right over there. I finished four days early at 58,550 words. Pretty darn cool if I do say so myself. I even bought myself a winners t-shirt. When I get it I’ll take a “selfie” (apparently that’s a real word now) so everyone can see.
I’m glad I took the NaNoWriMo challenge for the first time. I had always thought that I needed a lot of time to work through a draft. “My brain doesn’t work that fast,” I’d say, or “Writing needs to happen in its own time.” Writing for NaNoWriMo showed me that I can complete a draft in 30 days and it doesn’t have to take three or four months. Sure, there was a Pavlov’s dog-type reward for adding my word count into the NaNoWriMo widget and watching the numbers go up (I won’t admit whether I salivated or not). I was able to achieve both tasks I set out for myself—first, to hit the 50,000 word mark and second, to write a complete draft from beginning to end. Done and done.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I wasn’t working with an idea off the top of my head as a lot of writers do when they begin NaNoWriMo. I had been kicking the idea for That You Are Here around for about a year, and I had a halfway decent outline to work with. True, the outline was better for the later chapters, but at least I had something to work with in the beginning when the writing is hardest (at least for me). I’m sure I wouldn’t have done nearly as well if I hadn’t started with a clear idea of the story I wanted to tell.
I also contribute my success, at least partially, to my OCD. I have never been officially diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but I’m sure I have it—not to such a debilitating degree as others, but I must have some minor form of it. I will check five times to see that the garage door is closed, you know, oddities like that. During November I was Rain Man wringing his hands in the airport: “I have to hit 50,000 words. I have to hit 50,000 words. That’s 1666 words per day. How many words did I do today? Not enough words? How many words do I have to do tomorrow? I have to hit 50,000 words…” I said in my first NaNoWriMo update that it didn’t matter if I hit the word count or not, and in theory I meant it. But I know me, and when I have something hanging over me like a due date, I will get it done or else Rain Man starts nagging again.
I’m glad I met my goals, and yet I’m glad November is over. The draft of the novel is complete—it has a beginning, a middle, and an end—but it still needs a lot of work. I’m going to do what I usually do when I finish a draft of a novel—set it aside for a couple of weeks so I can go back to it with fresh eyes. I need a brain break after pushing so hard for 30 days. Still, I learned something—I can work quickly and efficiently if I set my mind to it. For someone like me who has a lot of stories to tell, that’s an important lesson.
I think that if November is National Novel Writing Month, then December should be National Novel Editing Month. Just an idea.
I got an e-mail from the NaNoWriMo people talking about the December hangover, and I understand. But I still have a lot to do to make That You Are Here the novel I want it to be. So there’s plenty of work to keep me busy in December and beyond.