NANO OR NO-NO!

For those of you who do not know, November is National Novel Writing Month (“NANO”). The goal of NANO is to write a 50,000 word novel (approximately 175 pages) in a month. Participants sign up from all over the world and track their progress on individual online profiles. You are supposed to turn off your “inner editor” and just write by the seat of your pants.

I entered last year and failed – miserably. To demonstrate how poorly I performed, I started my second novel last year during NANO and, to date (a year later), it is only 47,000 words. In my defense, I did stop to edit “Just Friends With Benefits,” but still, 47,000 words in one year vs. 50,000 words in one month? Thanks for playing. Try again.

Or not.

In television and movies, characters who are writers are often shown hunched over their computers (or typewriters in older films) for hours and hours, lost deep in their work in progress. Not me. If I write two pages in one sitting, it is a very successful effort. In addition to writing, I work full time, organize and participate in a book-club, have an active social life, work-out five-to-six days a week, love television (and am not ashamed to admit it over the internet) and need and cherish beauty sleep. Unfortunately, my schedule does not lend itself to spending full days writing.

I like to think I’m a very well-balanced person. (That’s not to be confused with having ‘good balance’ because I most certainly do not but that’s a topic for another blog.) While I am passionate about writing, I am also passionate about my other interests listed above and at least for now, am not prepared to sacrifice one of my passions for another. So I write in short increments of time whenever I find them. For example, I’ll write when I’m in a waiting room at the doctor’s office. I’ll write on the subway. If I have an hour before meeting a friend for a drink, I’ll sit in a coffee shop and write. The slow progression of my work-in-progress notwithstanding, you’d be surprised at how much progress you can make writing that way. If I manage to write for 30-60 minutes three days a week, I can write ten pages that week. The challenge is actually motivating myself to use those small increments of time to write as opposed to doing something else. But since I love writing and my creative juices flow easily and often, I usually do not have to step too far outside of my comfort zone to meet that challenge. I just whip out my Blackberry and before I know it, my characters have spoken words, experienced emotions and taken actions which 30 minutes earlier were just fleeting thoughts in my overactive noodle.

When I’ve told people I write on my Blackberry, I’ve been rewarded with strange looks and notes of surprise, but it works for me for the following reasons: 1) my laptop is really heavy and I detest carrying it around; 2) my handwriting is not only that of a 3rd grader but that of a 3rd grader with really bad handwriting; and 3) I find it much less intimidating to fill a Blackberry screen with words than a full-sized computer screen. I enter the text directly into my Blackberry, email the new content to myself and paste it into my Word document for editing. Writing on a Blackberry is conducive to making a lot of spelling mistakes, but it’s also a good excuse for making a lot of spelling mistakes! And if you are a writer, you are no stranger to proofreading, editing and revising anyway.

I genuinely respect the many people who enter and complete the NANO challenge year after a year. And I do not regret attempting it last year. Had I not tried, I would continue to wonder if it was something I’d enjoy. (Similar to my feelings about training for and running the New York Marathon but, again, that’s a topic for another blog.) Having attempted to “write a novel in a month”, I discovered it didn’t work for me and that I prefer the “two year, give or take several months” plan. Unless editor imposed deadlines are in play, I do not believe there is a right or wrong way to schedule writing time. It is the finished product that matters and the journey should simply be as pleasant as possible for the journeyman. For those of us who love (and need) to express ourselves through writing, the only wrong way to proceed, in my humble opinion, is to not write at all.

Until next time,

Meredith

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