I can knock out that last 4,000 in less than three hours, and I’m on vacation all week so I’m not too worried about finishing on time. I’ll probably summarize the rest of the story in the last few pages and write the remaining sections in December. (Chris Baty, founder of NaNo, says it’s okay do that, so don’t you judge me—it is so NOT cheating!)
I hit 46,087 last Thursday, exhaled, and haven’t opened the Word file since. It’s not that I’m feeling cocky, but I think this goes back to my need for delayed gratification, as I wrote about here last week.
Once I hit that 50,000-word goal, NaNo is essentially over for me, which means I get to watch all the angst and excitement and stress and wonder on Twitter and Facebook and no longer be a part of it. And my favorite part of NaNo is bonding with other writers, most of them complete strangers I stumble upon through some form of social media. (Although all over the country, and all over the world, other NaNo writers are meeting up in coffee shops and bookstores for “Write-Ins,” I am unable to write in public, mostly because the atmosphere is too social—put me in a room with other writers and coffee and I’m going to want to talk.)
In the November 13th issue of The New York Times Book Review I read the first lines of a snippet on NaNo in the “In the List” feature by Laura Schuessler and at first felt like we were being ridiculed: “November is the cruelest month, at least for literary agents bombarded with the fruits of National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. Here’s how it works: Writers — or “Wrimos,” in the official parlance — register at the event’s Web site, turn on the word-count widget and start cranking out about 1,500 words a day, without stopping to wonder if the whole thing stinks.”
I felt much better when I came across an editorial in the same day’s paper, also about NaNo, that talked about the sense of community and the point of the exercise to be one in which a writer throws aside inhibitions and just writes—for many of us, we are working writers who make our living with words; our NaNo novels may never be published but they still serve a useful purpose in jumpstarting our creativity, get us thinking about our craft, and allowing us to experiment with ideas that we may have been putting off or not finding the time to work on.
The New York Times editorial put it this way: “We’d like to see a follow-up, ReReNaNoWriMo — Reading the Results of National Novel Writing Month. But reading these novels isn’t really the point. The point is the indulgence, for many, of a dream. It’s also the pleasure of belonging, for a month, to a community that puts the lie to the myth of the lonely writer.”
For most of us, if we tell people we are writing a novel, the statement is usually met with either extreme skepticism or, on the other end of the spectrum, absurd excitement that can be embarrassing, when friends and families pester us to immediately read what we’ve written after asking detailed questions about plot that we’re not ready to answer.
During November, though, there are plenty of people doing the same thing we are, at the same harried pace. It’s fun to compare war stories and writing tips, knowing at the end we’ll all share that collective sigh of relief and congratulatory pat on the back.
So I’m not ready to give that up just yet…maybe in a day or two. I want to savor those last few pages and reach the finish line with all my new writing friends.
And then we can all enter the reclusive existence of the lonely editor on December 1st….