It’s November, and for write-minded folks (hur, see what I did there?) that means it’s National Novel Writing Month. It doesn’t necessarily follow that said folk are, in fact writing a novel. No less a writer than Mur Lafferty blogged about how she is again a non-participant this year.
I’m not writing one this year, either, Mur, and I don’t think you need to fret about skipping it, either.
I did participate last year, but I wouldn’t call it a novel. I signed up October 27 in a brief moment of wild abandon, with a few anecdotes in mind and not a whiff of plot. I got ahead; I got behind; I caught up; I reached a denouement November 29th at 9pm. Total word count: 50,129. It was a blast. It changed the direction of my life.
So why not this year? This year, I have a lot more going on. I’ve moved from being a departmental admin to a tech editing post. My wife works outside the home now, so most of my weekend involves actual parenting.
The biggest reason I didn’t sign up this year is my novel. The story I have rattling around in my head isn’t something I want to slam onto the page in a month. I’m doing research, creating back story, trying to chart a course in world-building that skirts the uncanny valley.
In other words, I’m having too much fun creating the story to actually write the book. I know I’ll get to it; I’ve written the first chapter three times. I have my major plot points, my protagonist and antagonist. I have the Sensei, the Girl, and the Secret. I can see the profile of the ending through the fog. I even have a MacGuffin. But I’m not writing it this month.
I’m not trying to run down NaNoWriMo; it’s a tremendous accomplishment, and a lot of fun. I’m also not someone who can tell Mur Lafferty about what or when to write; I’m not trying to do that, either. I think I’ve realized something important about participating in NaNoWriMo, though.
If you’re going to make a hefty time commitment to something like that, you have to know why you’re doing it. I signed up last year, after years of wanting to do it, to prove to myself that I really could write. That I could set a goal, put that goal ahead of other needs, and do it. And I made it. I’ve scaled that peak and seen the next, higher one. I’ll come back later on to scale this one again, up a different, more challenging face of the mountain. Right now, I’m doing other things with my writing. Starting this blog is one of them. Besides my attempt at world building, I have a non-fiction book I’m researching (on political eschatologists) and one that can only be described as a screed against Motivation and Personal Development as industries.
Don’t feel bad, Mur. Look at where you are: a semidecade podcast, editor of Escape Pod, for crying out loud. Because of people like you, and Steve, and Tony, and Wil, I was able to unchain my creativity, haul it out of the emotional basement, and stand with it to say “I am a writer.” I realized what was possible for me, because of people like you. Just people, but cool people. Smart, funny, successful cool people. Don’t cut yourself down because of not writing a novel this month. You are part of the germination of many, many stories, and I’m one of them.