The Changes of Nanowrimo

The dear people at the Office of Letters and Light have Nanowrimo pinned down to a tee.  Week One – an exciting week where word counts ramp up.  Week Two – where the momentum hits a brick wall.  Week Three – where you push past 25K and the story comes together.  So on and so forth.

It’s been interesting watching Nano grow up.  When I started in 2003, it was quite possible to keep up on the forums.  You could read every thread if you wanted to without it being too major of a time dent.  Now it’s so big it sometimes feels like I can’t keep up with my own region.  I barely venture out into the rest of the forums anymore.  I can remember when the site always crashed on Nov 1st, when the Office of Letters and Light was formed, when spin-off programs like Script Frenzy and the Young Writers’ Program came into being.

And as they’ve streamlined the proceedings, made it professional and shiny and official, things have changed.  There are things I miss about the early days of Nano, but I’m proud of where they’ve gotten to and wish them luck with what they want to try in the future.

What’s interesting to note is that my own personal Nano has changed over the years as well.  Oh, sure, my first Nano I did exactly what you’re expected to do – I joined on November 3rd after a dream gave me a premise.  I wrote first person (which I almost never do) and a mystery (which I certainly don’t do, alas) and put in dares and kept going even when I knew my plot needed severe help.  Anything to get the words, right?  It didn’t matter if they were silly or bad or that the plot had no point or that I had done no research and had absolutely no idea what I was talking about.  I was writing with Literary Abandon!  It was awesome!

I’d like to think I would have finished that year, without the concussion and the illness, but I’ll never know.  I was doing fine, but maybe the plot would have completely stalled in the next few days even if I had been able to follow a train of thought all the way to its station.  Maybe I would have realized that my main character was a Mary Sue and that there wasn’t a single likeable character in the bunch.  Maybe I would have given up.  That’s all in the past.

I can’t do that anymore.  I can’t randomly put in ninjas when I’m frustrated with the plot, or shovels of death, or trebuchets, or whatever happens to be popular that year.  I haven’t stopped by the Dares thread in probably three years.

Challenges need to evolve, or they no longer are challenges.  Yes, each story has its own problems to overcome.  Each one teaches you new things and improves your skill as a writer.  Nanowrimo doesn’t change.  It has the same goal, year after year.  So instead you have to change how you do it.

A lot of people up the word count goal.  They’ll do 75K or 100K or 150K in a month.  Some people will work on multiple stories.  Some people will try to get to 50K by the 15th, the 10th, the 5th.

My answer, over the years, has been to become slow and steady.  I write 2K every day.  I make sure I’m not sticking in random scenes just to meet word counts.  I’ll take time to outline or research as I need it.  I work on serious projects, ones I plan on editing and submitting and hopefully seeing in print one day.

Nano is not a challenge for me.  It hasn’t been for a long time.  I don’t worry about reaching 50K.  I just write.  Nano is just something I do.  It gives me an excuse to give my family every November and get away with it.  Besides, I love the energy Nano brings with it – all my writing friends, all writing at once.  So often throughout the rest of the year some of us are editing, rewriting, revising, submitting; it’s nice for everyone to be on the same page.

Nano is a lot of different things for different people.  One of its greatest benefits is that you can make it what you want.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Catana on 2010/11/16 at 7:03 PM

    You said a lot of things I’ve been thinking about lately. This is my fifth year, so I haven’t been at it as long as you have, and even though last year was my first win, I don’t feel as if it’s a challenge. Last year taught me to pace myself, not to worry about other people’s wordcounts, or even about my own, as long as I’m staying pretty much on track. My goal is a solid first draft for a novel that’s worth working on after NaNo is over. I learn something new every year about writing, and NaNo has become an important part of that.


  2. Sadly, Kit, whilst it is still a challenge for me to *hit* fifty thousand words, at the same time, it’s not a challenge. Like you say, it’s changed and evolved… and not necessarily *well*.


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