Ten Years of NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, as it's popularly abbreviated) began in 1999, but I first participated in 2007. If you're unfamiliar with NaNo, you can read more about it here. Essentially, the idea is to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days.

The first year I participated in NaNoWriMo is also the only year I've hit that 50,000 word goal during the official month. It was exhilarating, stressful, thrilling, maddening, and highly rewarding. I ended up with a 51,516 word monstrosity that contains a coherent story somewhere within it, but would require a huge amount of editing to make it remotely readable.

But, hey, the point of NaNoWriMo isn't to create a finished product. The point is to put your butt in a seat in front of a computer, or typewriter, or notebook, and produce the first draft of something that could one day be a finished product. NaNoWriMo is about quantity. The editing comes later.

With one or two exceptions, I've only participated during odd-numbered years since then. No particular reason. It's just become a personal tradition. This happens to be my tenth anniversary of NaNoWriMo-ing. I still haven't revised that first victorious mess into a readable novel. And I haven't met the word count goal in any of the subsequent years. But it has absolutely been worth it.

Two years ago, I finished and self-published my first novella, the first volume of a series called Zeck. It's about 30,000 words long, 20,000 short of a NaNo goal. Word count isn't everything, though, and that book is as long as it needs to be. It took me two years to write the sequel, which I started during NaNoWriMo of 2015. My word count by the end of that month: 15,342. The current word count on the final draft: 88,675. Even though I didn't hit the word count goal that November, I blew way past it and finished the book almost exactly two years after I started it.

I've been thinking about whether or not this will be my last year participating in NaNoWriMo. Possibly. I'll see what I'm doing around November of 2019, if the world still exists more or less as we know it. The precise rules of NaNoWriMo might just not fit with my workflow and lifestyle anymore. But I do find these periods of intense production to be useful. It just took me a while to find a balance between producing so much so quickly that I filled the pages with unusable nonsense, and revising as I go so that my production slows to a crawl. I think I found that balance with Zeck.

In any case, I've produced an appropriately low word count for the month: 4,469. Chalk it up to many things: working full time, operating at a constant level of stress and anxiety about the demagogue who's helping the GOP shit all over ninety-nine percent of Americans and keeping the threat of nuclear war at a medium simmer. Also, being November, we've had not one, but two family tragedies. Things happen.

Still, it wasn't a fruitless NaNoWriMo. I've made a good start on two different stories, one of them in a genre I haven't worked in before. Cheers to anybody who participated, whether you sped past 50,000 or scribbled two words on a cocktail napkin and threw it away.