NaNoWriMo: How I Made It Work for Me

I knew from the start that winning NaNoWriMo in NaNoWriMo terms was not possible for me this year. First of all, I had begun thinking about a novel in 2005, it had grown to a set of five since then, and I had been drafting the first chapter (and redrafting and redrafting) since May. It didn’t make sense to begin another project when this was the one I had been tinkering with—smoothing out an idea here, changing a character there. But NaNoWriMo gave me a framework in which I could choose to focus on it and do some writing in earnest, and I took up the challenge for that reason.

Besides the fact that my novel was already started, I couldn’t get signed in until November 7. Since doing NaNoWriMo only seriously entered my thoughts when my daughter, who won last year, mentioned it to me a couple of days before it began, So I really couldn’t get a drop on the great November 1 sign-up rush, and consequently got caught in the great November 1 NaNoWriMo site slowdown. Oh well.

In addition, not rewriting when rewriting was needed did not make sense for my project. With four following books and four years of planning, coherence was more important to me than volume. I write for a living. I know that the words will come, in time. But leaving core issues in a tangle could mean a whole lot of untangling later.

A fourth reason that 50,000 words was not my prime goal is that while a good portion of my stories depend on what I make up from my imagination, a large segment also depends on research. In about mid-November, I “discovered” unexpectedly that one of my characters had gotten hold of of a set of cards made by another character and was using them to tell fortunes. In order to a) make the two disparate uses of the card set work and b) make the fortunes viable, I had to design the card set. Four days for research on an element that is almost entirely visual.

So ending with 37,068 words, which is what I have now, and what I’ll have 59 minutes from now when midnight strikes in Vermont, is fine for me. I’ve made a lot of progress in a way that’s consistent and well-integrated with the entire story I plan to tell.

I’ll be reading an excerpt from my novel on WRUV on the show “Proximate Blues” on Thursday, December 3 at 10 a.m. Two other Verwrimos will also be there: Chris Evans, who hosts the show, and another guest besides myself. Hope you can join us: http://www.uvm.edu/~wruv/ or listen the MP3 posted after the show.

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