If you're a writer, who has spent any significant amount of time online, you've probably heard of NaNoWriMo. But then again, maybe you haven't. I (in my usual behind the times style) didn't know what it was until two years ago when a friend from high school asked if I was participating. I had to go out and Google it because I didn't know what the hell she was talking about. I checked out their site and decided to go ahead and give it a try.
What the hell, right? Nothing ventured, nothing gained or something like that.
Anyway, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It's been around since 1999 where there were 21 participants and six winners. In 2009, there were 167,150 participants and 32,178 winners (me among them). The goal is simple: write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. You win if you reach the 50,000 word mark.
You can write whatever kind of novel you want; you just can't write a single word of it until November 1st. You can write as many notes on your project as you like in the meantime though.
My first foray into NaNoWriMo was spent writing a chick lit/romance type novel. I'd read some pretty bad examples of this genre and had decided to put my money where my mouth was. I called it "Choose Your Own Adventure" and started off with nothing but the main character's name (Lavinia). I stayed up until midnight on Halloween night so I could start right away...and ended up staring at the cursor on the word processing program thinking, "What the hell did I do?"
It turned out all right though. The story came together a little at a time. There was some real junk to be found in there because you're supposed to just write. not edit. Just write. It doesn't matter if the story is crap. The goal is to reach your word count and that's it. Write a crappy first draft of something. That's what the month is all about. You can edit to your heart's content come December.
So that's what I did. I thought I'd get to December and never look at this project again but something strange happened. The story evolved into something I actually liked and kept growing and changing to the point where I stopped trying to predict where it was headed and just went along for the ride. I started to care about the characters. I even created a story specific soundtrack for it (a sure sign that I have committed to the project). By the end of the month, I had almost 60,000 words and no ending. I also had to change the title because the old one just didn't fit the story anymore. It's currently called "Vinnie and Ellie" (which I hate but I haven't yet thought of anything I like better) and it's one of my favorite projects. Of course, it's still unfinished because of my tunnel vision where my fantasy series is concerned, but I do look at it every now and again and am reminded just how much I really do like that WIP.
So last year, I think it was January, I came up with an idea for NaNoWriMo 2010. So I started scribbling notes. I spent nine months scribbling down ideas for this book. It was going to be a YA urban fantasy novel about a sixteen year old demon hunter whose mother (unaware of her daughter's after school activities) sends her to a program for troubled teens. A sort of "Buffy goes to juvie" story. I was so excited about it. It was going to be awesome. It was going to be the best damn book anyone had ever read. I was so in love with this story and I hadn't even written a word of it.
Then came November and all of a sudden, I was back in front of my computer, staring at a blinking cursor and thinking, "What the hell did I do?"
That's right. Despite all my careful planning and note taking, I hit a wall. The awesomeness in my head was not translating well onto the page. I didn't think I would make the goal and either did the NaNoWriMo progress chart. It kept telling me that at my current rate of production, I wouldn't finish until well into December. But, thanks for a last minute all nighter held on November 29th, I managed to get the 50,000 words (the project currently sits at 51k) but boy, was I depressed that it hadn't gone as well as I had hoped.
I stopped working on it and didn't look at it again until January 2011. I was surprised to find that parts of it didn't suck as badly as I recalled. I call it Solstice and there is some really good stuff in there (Well, so says me. I'm the only one to have read any of it). It just needs work because it's still very unfinished. It just needs a middle. And an ending. And a beginning. Much like "Vinnie and Ellie", I go and look at it once in a while and work on it a little bit more.
Next year I should really make a goal of finishing some of these WIPs I have sitting around.
But that's next year. This year, I have no plans for NaNoWriMo. I mean, I'm planning to participate but I have no idea what I'm going to write. I know it's only April and so there's plenty of time to come up with something but I don't like this idea of not knowing. I wonder what it'll be and if I'll end up loving or hating it.
Anyone else out there participate in NaNoWriMo? Did you win? Did you love it? Hate it? Did you know that Sara Gruen's novel Water For Elephants was a NaNoWriMo project?
Tell us your experiences and have a great weekend...