I tried it last year. Never mind November was packed full of speaking engagements, copyedits for Comfort, and oh, yeah, Thanksgiving. I'd been asked to speak to a group of early college students who were participating in the NaNo event so I figured I should sign on too.
Since I knew there'd be days when I couldn't write at all, I didn't stress over the 50,000 word goal. I just decided to board the NaNo express and see what I could learn.
At this point, I should probably analyze the experience in a somewhat methodical fashion but that would be so unJoyce of me. So I will simply reflect.
Words were the "be all and end all" - several thousand a day; I'd put my fingers to the keyboard and tell them to fly. On one occasion, I opened one of my source books and wrote what I saw in the photographs - descriptions for the portraits of doctors and the hospital campus where my story takes place.
I described my characters' personalities, their interactions, the posters on their walls. I wrote scenes in which they fought, loved, and worried. But mostly I threw emotions and impressions onto the page. I wrote lots of disconnected scenes.
I kept thinking that, although I'd done a lot of research, I needed more info. And I needed time. Mostly I needed time!
IMHO, one cannot write a book without time. I need hours to reflect on the latest paragraphs I've written, weeks to unearth what I just realized I don't know yet, and weekends for research trips! I need whole months for unexpected subplots, quirks, and characters to emerge.
By the end of November, I did not have 50,000 words but I'd managed 42,000 which was not so bad considering the one missing ingredient - time.
Since then, I've had months in which the muses abandoned me entirely, weeks of exhilarating research, and days with fingers flying on my keyboard.
I finished my novel. I think. Mostly. Sort of.
My conclusions from last year's NaNoWriMo are:
- Busy people get things done!
- Having a goal and group accountability does motivate.
- It was a great way to figure out my character's backstory.
- The event is good for getting words on the page - but in the end they'll show up in an entirely different order.
- Sometimes a month can feel like a year!
I'm glad I rode the NaNoWriMo express! And given the necessary motivation, I might do it again some year. But my goal for this November is to get last year's novel fine-tuned and ready for submission.