National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) was already in its 10th year when I first participated in 2008. I don’t remember how I first heard of it, other than hearing people in my then local Barnes and Noble talk about it. I knew I was a year away from retirement from Uncle Sam, and I’d been looking for writing sites online. That’s likely how I found it. I was intrigued by it right away.
I had thousands of words in rough drafts on my home computer, but 50,000 of them in 30 days? That was a challenge I was willing to accept. Two years out of a failed marriage, I constantly sought meaningful things to occupy my time, other than crying in my wine with a neighbor.
I signed up.
I’d never say Uncle Sam was capricious, but responding to issues that pop up unexpectedly often means last minute travel. I was on travel status for 13 of the 30 days in November 2008, but a couple of weekends of doing nothing except writing meant I squeaked over 50,000 words around 10 p.m. on November 30.
Why Keep It Up?
I’d met the goal, so why have I continued to participate in NaNoWriMo?
First, I liked the feeling of writing every day. Let me clarify that. I liked the feeling of writing for myself every day. I wrote every day for Uncle Sam, work I take tremendous pride in, but it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t telling the stories bouncing about in my head. It wasn’t giving voice to characters growing in my imagination. NaNoWriMo allowed those stories and those words to emerge and those characters to be born.
That hasn’t changed, not one iota.
Every year, usually in the spring, I start thinking about what I want to write. I’m not much of an outliner (too constraining), but I make many notes on plot and characters and settings. By the time November rolls around, I know what I’m going to write, but, in truth, I make it up as I go along.
NaNoWriMo has facilitated a great many “aha!” moments in my writing when the story or the character does something unexpected, something I didn’t make notes on, but which needed to happen. But, there have also been the days where I had to pad the 1,667 words a day requirement with adverbs and dialogue tags.
With NaNoWriMo, I’ve stretched my writing into different, for me, genres, mystery and romance, for example. The former resulting in two really decent stories, the latter, eh, not so much. This year, I’m on my third novel featuring one of my secondary characters in my Directorate series. I’m thinking those three will make a great box set some time soon.
Am I Ever Going to Stop?
I don’t know. I’m at the point right now where November without NaNoWriMo would be, well, weird. Unnatural. Eerie.
Though, I do have a big enough backlog of manuscripts from NaNoWriMo over the years to keep me in publishing for some time to come. I have joked about “retiring” from writing after my 25th book, and I do have some time to go on that goal.
Everyone wants to leave behind a legacy. Mine will be my books, those stories and those characters I love, and none of that would have happened without 15 years of NaNoWriMo.