Why I’m Not Doing Nanowrimo This Year

Cat Fink 'What Gives Me Joy Nov 9 2016 (books)'November first.  The clouds are dark grey outside my studio window.  It’s been raining, snowing, and sleeting since midnight.  The temperature sits at zero Celsius.  Perfect weather for being inside, papers scattered across my work table, music playing counterpoint to the drip of water off the roof, writing this blog post.

It’s a perfect day for beginning Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month), except this year I am not.

This is a deliberate choice.

I love doing Nanowrimo.  I love writing furiously, aiming for at least 2,000 words each day.  Love the focused creating.  Love the feeling of a single driving purpose in a life normally split half a dozen directions.  Love the community spirit, the support and mutual cheer leading.  Love the feeling of entering the word count that pushes me over the 50,000 word goal.  Oh yeah.

There is a good reason why I am not already in the depths of all this writing awesomeness.  It’s something else I love–more writing awesomeness.  It’s my book draft.

I am working through the final three chapters of Lisa Cron’s Story Genius.  I have my momentum and I want to keep it.  My book draft needs me.

If I shift to Nanowrimo, my creative focus completely shifts as well.  I know the energy required to complete 50,000 plus words in a month, and it would leave none for my book.  Nanowrimo is a demanding love.

I did Nanowrimo last year.  I wrote a parallel draft for my book.  I explored all the directions I didn’t take in the main draft.

It was worth spending a month discovering the words beyond the path already laid.  I found writing that belonged in the main draft, filling in gaps I hadn’t noticed.  I explored side paths I knew diverted the story so had ignored in the main draft.  I reveled in back story that helped me understand motivations and situations.

Pausing my main draft and doing Nanowrimo last year was totally worth it.  I gave myself month-long permission to experience places outside of the story.  My main draft is richer as a result of the parallel draft.

Saying yes to Nanowrimo this year would take me away from where I am right now, and where I need to go next in my book draft.  I need slower, more considered writing at the moment.

A ‘yes’ this year is an excuse to not work out the hard stuff on my book.  It’s very appealing, and  I know better.  I’ve done enough excuses this year.

I do have to say, this ‘no’ feels sad.  I feel like I’m missing the party.

At the same time, I feel how right my choice is.  I love where I am in my draft process.  I love what I have discovered and learned as I’ve worked my way.  I am so very curious about what else is going to show up, as though I am reading the already published book and wondering what happens next in the story.

I feel rich in my writing life; I have more than one thing to love.

Bon voyage, all you Nanowrimo crew!  May you have fair winds, full sails, and an ocean of ideas and words to play in.  May you have life rafts aplenty should you need them, and a welcoming harbour when your writing reaches home at the end of the month.  Save me a berth for next year.


In this post:

Nanowrimo aka National Novel Writing Month.  https://nanowrimo.org/  I feel like Dr. Seuss and Willy Wonka had a hand or ten in inventing this.

Book Story Genius by Lisa Cron, Ten Speed Press, 2016.  http://wiredforstory.com/story-genius-1/


Truth And Dare And The Parallel Draft

laid to rest east detail
Laid to Rest 80,000 Obstructing Spirits, East (detail)

I have a new name for my November Nanowrimo challenge.  I call it truth and dare.

It is not truth or dare.  That is the game I played with my friends at school and on weekends.  Seeing just how many secrets we could get out of each other when we were brave enough to choose truth, and how silly we could make each other look when we chose dare.

I recall that childhood game vividly.

There was freedom and fear and permission in letting go of a truth that was scalding my hands as I held it close and hidden.  And there was the same feeling in completing a dare that held potential for danger, embarrassment, and crossing an invisible line of rules I lived by.

The truth and dare of Nanowrimo gives me this same permission to let go.

Let go of all rules and limits I have placed on my creativity.

Let go of all rules and limits I have placed on the routine of my daily life.

Let my imagination and my words wander where they will, digging up old secrets and discovering new and embarrassing thoughts.

Let creativity happily disrupt my days.

I am writing something I have come to call my parallel draft.  I already have a second draft of my book.  That’s what I was working on prior to November one.  And I would be working on it now, except that the siren call of Nanowrimo got into my ears and my imagination and my heart and refused to leave.

The first day of November I find myself resurrecting my Nanowrimo account and signing up.

Yes, the gloriousness of being foolish, taking on truth and dare for a whole month.

The gloriousness and wisdom of writing a parallel draft of my book.  I did not know it was wisdom at first.  I thoroughly suspected that foolishness was primary in this decision.  Also, a need to run away from editing my second draft which had me feeling shaky and unsure.

It turns out the parallel draft holds everything that does not fit in my book.  I am following all the related threads of story that are not the thread of the second draft.

My Nanowrimo truth and dare draft is the story around the story.  By writing beyond the edges of my second draft, I dig deeper.  I see the story from other points of view, from other characters and environments and situations.

What is showing up here is the backstory and side story and future story.  All are informing the second draft.  Enriching it.  Placing it in a larger context.

When I go back to the second draft on December first, I know what lies beyond the frame of the story being written.

Except for the truth and dare of Nanowrimo, I would not have committed to a month of writing what lies beyond the primary story of the second draft.  I should say, I would not have wasted a month.  That was my attitude before the parallel story that showed up in the past fifteen days.

I have to remember this process of a parallel draft.  Something useful to add to my writer’s tool kit, when I need to see the story beyond the story.  When I need a wider vision.