Last November, I posted about how taking cello lessons inspired me to participate for the first time in NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Since then, a lot of people have asked me how the experiment panned out. I’ve been waiting—partly from shame, and partly for the enhanced perspective that is the reward of time—to admit that I failed to produce a complete novel in a single month.
The last few days of November were excruciating. I woke up on November 30th with my inner voice screaming, “You failed! You are a failure! A fail-y, fail-y FAILURE!” Like I’ve said before, my inner voice is a jerk.
However, something sort of miraculous did happen, something my jerk-wad inner voice has only recently, begrudgingly acknowledged: I wrote a good-sized chunk of a novel. 30,000 words, give or take. And I’m still writing it. NaNo wasn’t a failure, not really. (That’s right: the title of this post is misleading; our culture is more interested in people’s failures than their triumphs, and I wanted you to read this post. Sue me.)
Of course NaNo was a failure in the sense that I didn’t complete my novel. I still don’t know how it will end, not even close. I’m now about 60,000 words in, and figure I’m only about halfway. I’m not Tolstoy; this isn’t going to be War and Peace. I know that a lot of those words will have to be mercilessly razed in the revision process. I’m trying not to think about that. Yet.
What I learned from NaNo is that I can write more in one day than I thought I could. A lot more. NaNo participants are supposed to produce approximately 1600-1700 words per day; most days I managed to get close. Some days I actually exceeded my goal. But other days I didn’t write at all. Nevertheless, I impressed myself. Now, I’ve established a more moderate goal of 1000-1200 words per day. I still don’t get there every time, but it’s easier to consistently achieve.
When you’re writing that much, you don’t really have time to be critical. Most days, my jerk-wad inner voice can hardly get a word in edgewise because I’m too busy writing. Of course that means I’m generating a lot of literary doo-doo: sentences that will make me cringe when I go back to revise. But it’s eerily nice having my headspace silent, save for the whirring of my brain cells—which if you’re wondering, sound sort of like an electric fan.
Since the NaNo experiment, I’ve had several people ask what my “plans” for the novel are—meaning, how I want to publish it. I can’t think that far in advance. That’s like asking a pregnant lady which university she thinks her fetus will attend—or if she thinks it will go to college at all. For now, I’m just trying to maintain my momentum, applying ass to chair, as they say. My cello playing has suffered; I’ve been stuck on the same song for six weeks. If only there were a National Cello-Playing Month to give me a kick in the pants!
E. D. Watson is Newfound’s Blog Editor. A writer by day and a library clerk by night, her stories have appeared in [PANK], Narrative, Real South and Gulf Stream, among other publications. She eats cheddar-and-mayonnaise sandwiches when no one is looking.