Last year was the first time I participated in NaNoWriMo, also known as National Novel Writing Month. You may have heard me talk about it personally or read one of the several posts I’ve written on it. NaNoWriMo was incredible.
I was dared to participate in the challenge to write 50,000 words in a month, and I exceeded that challenge. I ended on the 30th of November with over 60,000 words of a novel on my computer. Then I did the only thing I could think of–I kept writing. On December 27th, I typed those two fateful words: “The End.”
Since that day, I’ve been slowly but surely working my way through the draft, dusting plot bunnies away and putting dirt into plot holes. When someone mentioned NaNo to me a month ago ago, it got me thinking. Can I really do this all over again? The typical NaNoWriMo participant is tasked to write 50,000 new words during the month of November. This year participants can continue a work in progress, but I don’t have much new writing to do. I need to edit. To follow the rules, I’d need to begin a new novel.
The thought that keeps popping up in my head is this: I’m in graduate school now. My free time can be summed up in the moments I take to eat food while I’m studying. My goals have changed. Earning my doctorate is priority number one, but who says I can’t attempt NaNo anyway? Start a new novel. Write 50,000 new words. The thing is, I don’t like to leave projects unfinished.
So I’m going to rebel.
The goodie-goodie two shoes in me is shrieking, but she can go sit in the corner. I’m not going to start a new project this NaNo. Instead, I am going to spend the same amount of time editing my novel as it took me to write the first 50,000 words.
Last November, I wrote for 33.7 hours before I hit the magical 50k word count. After a little bit of math, that means every hour of writing on average yielded 1484 words. So one hour of editing is going to count for 1484 words. That way NaNo is still a lofty challenge (as it should be), but not impossible. I will need 1 hour and 12 minutes a day to reach that goal.
With my current schedule of studying/Netflix binging in an attempt to relax/cooking fanciful meals when I don’t want to study/agonizing over how much I don’t know/wasting hours online because I can’t look at one more range of motion measurement/etc, it would be irresponsible of me to try to reach this goal.
But last November was magic. I stopped binge-watching Netflix. I subsisted on more than coffee and chocolate. I scored better in all of my undergrad classes and earned the highest GPA of my entire time at Notre Dame–including when I studied abroad. I wrote 60,897 words of a novel. NaNo gave me the discipline to manage my time and my priorities.
There’s something special about NaNo that I’m not willing to lose. You may not see me posting the in forums or attending hours-long write ins, but I’m going to be working. Fifteen minutes while dinner cooks. Ten minutes between class. School’s my first priority, but writing will be a close second.
I don’t think I can win this year, but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to try. If all else fails, at least I’ll have more editing done when December starts. That’s the beauty of NaNo. Even if you don’t “win”, you still end up better than when you started.
Bring it on, NaNoWriMo. There’s work to be done.