National Novel Writing Month Isn’t Just for Novel Writing!

Or it doesn’t have to be. 

In case you haven’t heard November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This insanity has been going on for more than a dozen years now. I did it once a few years back and completed a perfectly trunkable novella. I had never written anything that long before and, on the most basic level, it gave me confidence that I could sustain an idea through at least 50,000 words. It also taught me that I could write one to two thousand words a day (at some cost due to Thanksgiving and its requisite family commitments). The work also contributed to my million words.

“Everyone has to write a million words of crap before they can start producing good fiction.”   ~generally attributed to Raymond Chandler.

One NaNoWriMo taught me everything I needed to learn from that exercise, and I haven’t done it since. Yet, I know many people who do it every year. They do it for many reasons, for the camaraderie and for the discipline of the deadline that requires about 1,600 new words a day, every day for a month. Doing something every day for about 30 days is also a great way to form a new habit.

While I am not interested participating in Nano according to the rules as they’re laid out, there is always a lot of chatter and excitement around November and that is one aspect of Nano that I really enjoy.* So much about writing is about pulling things out of the cave of my own subconscious, so much time spent in the fragile little worlds constructed inside my head. It’s nice to have a feeling of solidarity with other people who are all pursuing a similar endeavor together. 

In lieu of attempting to write a novel I’ve devised my own challenge and it has to do with a difficulty that I have specific to my own writing process. I’m calling it the Not Exactly National Novel Writing Month or NeNaNoWriMo!

Every day this month, I am going to freewrite (i.e. speed write) a NEW story idea. Some will be from title ideas I have noted in my journal, others from story prompts or writing exercises.

Here’s why I picked this particular challenge. I love doing speed writing exercises because they tap into the subconscious. No matter how silly the prompt, if I write for 30 minutes without stopping I almost always find something among those wacky sentences and jumbled images that suggest a viable story. Where’s the problem you might ask. The thing is, when I freewrite and see a gem in there, I immediately feel a certain obligation to pursue it. I tend to be very stubborn about seeing my ideas through and I have a rather layered, and time consuming, revision process, so I’ve been shying away from even playing with new ideas.

And that’s a bad thing. I think I need fewer precious curios and more nicked up toys in the pages of my journal. So, for the next thirty days, I’m going to freewrite a brand new thing every day. This is a 30-minute commitment, so I’ll have time to continue working on my other works-in-progress. If I have extra time I can fiddle with that day’s idea/story seed, but at the stroke of midnight I’ll close it and create something brand new.

Said Rear Admiral David Farragut
The important thing is to just keep moving forward. Oddly, the skill I want to end up with is the ability to NOT follow up on everything. I’ll sort things out in December, and surely some things will be left undeveloped. And that will be okay.


* I’m not signing up on the NaNoWriMo site, though I don’t think there’s any rule against it.

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