Yesterday afternoon, around 2pm, I passed 50,000 words in my current NaNo novel. There was no dancing involved, though it would have been well deserved. I was halfway through a scene that I calmly remained seated to get down, finally stopping at a respectable 50,540 words. That also gave me a nice little buffer, in case there was a discrepancy between my Scrivner word count and the NaNo word count validator.
This was the first time I’d done NaNo and I came into it completely intimidated. If you estimate 250 words to a page, it’s roughly 200 pages…in a month! And I did it in 20 day! (Yeah, that deserves a second exclamation point, even if I’m usually stingy with them.) I really surprised myself. Not only because I made it to 50k, but because this is what my graph looks like throughout the month.
And I’ve rewarded myself too. I’m going to have an exciting mail week. I ordered myself this beautiful wooden bookmark and this pair of comfy, loungy pants. That’s important, since I do most of my writing sitting cross-legged on the couch.
Of course, 50,000 unedited words is only about half a novel, so I’ve thought ahead and picked out what my 100,000 word rewards will be. *claps excitedly.* When that day comes, I’ll allow myself the following:
Yes, that is a beautiful wooden ruler (I’m a sucker for all things hand-crafted and wooden.) and a Dune-inspired bracelet. And if I’m really honest, I’ll admit the hour or so cruising Etsy to pick it all out was a reward of sorts too.
As excited as I am about goodies, completing this challenge wasn’t really about the things I would let myself spend my meagre income on. In a very real way, it also wasn’t about writing any particular book.
It was about writing in general. Writing is something I enjoy, torturous as it often is. But I’d fallen out of habit. I’d let myself become the classic ‘one day writer.’ That well-intentioned, but ultimately unfocused author who recognises the plot bunnies as they frolic through her mind, but never actually sits down and writes. Rather, I always intended to do it one day.
Doing NaNo this year was about making today the day, and then tomorrow and the next. It was about once again establishing the habit of sitting down and putting words on paper, even if they’re crap. I spent a lot of time reminding myself of this during the last three weeks. And I expect once I’ve reached my 100k, the first thing I’ll do is reread it all and cut a third. But better that than having nothing at all.
This is especially true for my current work. I really think it needs to be written. Unfortunately, I also kind of wish the muse had passed it on to someone a little more experienced and given me a quick bit of monster-erotica or something. This is hard.
It’s the first time I’ve written anything that isn’t wholly fantasy, meaning I can’t just make it up as I go. Plus, I’m dealing with some heavy and probably controversial issues, while trying to respectfully address cultural practices that are largely foreign and frightening to Americans. I have suddenly become painfully aware of my own Western gaze and how much of what we take for granted as givens, in fact aren’t for a lot of the world.
And the one thing I don’t want to be accused of at the end of this is presenting Western mores as universals, when they patently aren’t. But this means teasing out which of my own closely held beliefs are culturally specific, which ones I learned so early and so slowly that I never noticed. This is not easy and it’s uncomfortable. But it’s necessary and both my book and I will be better for it. *sigh*
But I digress. My point is that this work would be especially easy to continue to put off, because, for me, it has a lot of added challenges. I’m absolutely convinced that if I hadn’t started it as a NaNo project, with the ridged structure necessary to hit 50,000 words in a month, I would still be tiptoeing around the idea of eventually writing it. Now I’m halfway through a rough first draft…and feeling like a total badass.
So, though I don’t have a complete work in my hands at the end of this experience, I have some things I consider even more valuable. I have a reinvigorated dedication to my writing. I have a project that is well enough on its way to feel real and accomplishable. I have my passion back. For these things, I’ll thank NaNoWriMo and imagine this won’t be the last time I sign up.