13 December 2006

Reflections on Nano 2006

Before November, my attempts to write a novel ended at about ten or eleven pages. An aspiring writer, I convinced myself now was not the time to focus on writing longer pieces. "I'll have time later," I told myself. "I need to learn more about the craft."

For the past several years, a good friend challenged me to participate in Nano, or National Novel Month. Nano takes place during the month of November; the challenge is to write 50,000 words between the 1st and 30th, approximately 1,667 words a day. Spelling, punctuation and indecision are put aside to reach the goal.

Each year, I declined. "I'm too busy," I told her. Between classes and work, I had little time to write a novel. "I'll do it next year." This year, as she listened to my same old excuses, something she said finally brought the meaning of Nano to life.

"You'll never have time."

She was right. I'd always put off writing. I wrote mindless dribble to excuse myself. I'd justify it with "at least I am writing." This isn't to say I didn't write anything worthwhile; I used my short, publishable material as the excuse to not undertake larger tasks. I needed this challenge. So, with no expectations, I signed up on October 31st at the Nano website.

On November 1st, I sat at my computer and wrote around 1,800 words. By the 15th, I managed to hit the halfway point. I was going strong, and I was confident I'd make my goal.

But I didn't reach 50,000 words. I'd let sickness slow my momentum. On the 30th, I had 35, 192 words, about 126 pages in Microsoft Word. But I am not sorry I participated in National Novel Month.

I learned writing everyday takes discipline. Several times I had to write 4,000 to 5,000 words in one day to make up for lower count days. It wasn't easy, but I had the support of other participants. They were going through the same ordeal, and they encouraged me. I cheered for friends in their personal race to beat another participant. And I was inspired by friends who crossed the finish line before the contest ended.

I learned novelists, like all great writers, are simply people determined to write.

So will I participate in Nano again? Yes, I will. Come next November 1st, I'll start another novel. But more importantly, in the meantime I'll try to finish the one I started, and maybe even begin another one before Nano 2007 begins.

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