Today is All Saints’ Day to some, Dio des los Muertos (Day of the Dead) to others, and New Year’s Day to yet more people, as Samhain, Oct. 31 is the end of the pagan year. Hopefully we all made it through Halloween without any jack-o-lantern attacks or candy-induced sugar comas. In the US, November brings us Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving, and stores full of so much cheesy holiday stuff, we all think about screaming in public. Black Friday sales, Santa Claus parades, football, more football, and neighbors with loud leaf blowers.
Oh—and NaNoWriMo. Yep, November is National Novel Writing Month. Because frantic holiday over-planning doesn’t give us enough to keep us busy.
The idea behind NaNo is to give writers the encouragement and community support to write that novel that’s been rattling around in their brains. You join up, track your word count, and hopefully you end up with a 50K novel by the end of the month. Or a 50K half of a novel, at any rate, if your aim is for something mass market length. It’s a neat idea, and it really can work. Even during pumpkin-everything season.
In 2006 I sold my first 3 books—to 3 different publishers. I hadn’t written any sequels, so I needed to come up with at least a couple on a pretty speedy timeline. The one was intended to be category-length, 50-60K, so that seemed perfect. I joined NaNo, and Crazy for the Cowboy, 65K in length was done by the end of the month. Though I’d written three previous novels, I’d completed nothing in this kind of timeframe, nothing since my first sale, and therefore nothing as a professional author. (In my own opinion, of course.) The book was readily accepted by my publisher, and is, in fact, still available from The Wild Rose Press. It also got good reviews, and continues to be a personal favorite. In my mind, that NaNo project was an unmitigated success.
The next year I left my day job and began to focus on writing full time. My writing speed was pretty good, with months that very often exceeded 50K. Therefore, I didn’t choose to participate in NaNo, since it wasn’t a particular challenge anymore. By 2011, though, I began to slow down. 2012 was a really slow year, and 2013 so far hadn’t been particularly impressive. I was in a rut. A short novella that should have taken a week or two began to take me months. My most recent Gaslight novel seemed to take forever and I began to actually miss deadlines for the first time in my writing life.
That’s why I did sign up for NaNo this year. I need the kick in the pants. I need the public reporting in order to keep myself honest. I need to WRITE. Not just promo, not second-guess my career, not spend time playing games or scrolling on Facebook. I went out and rented office space, so I can’t use my one-year-old granddaughter as an excuse. No excuses. Just writing.
While I will be working on my next Gaslight book during November, I will be primarily focused on a new project in a new genre. Nano seemed the perfect time to break my stride and write something new. Something out of my comfort zone. Of course I will also have edits, revisions and all the other stuff that goes with being a professional writer. This year’s challenge isn’t just to write 50K in one month—it’s to do so while juggling everything else that life has to offer.
What can be a challenge for one person can be an everyday occurrence for someone else. The trick, I think, is to make sure that you set challenges that mean something to you. Another friend is doing half-NaNo. She’s not joining up, but has set a private goal of 25K—because that’s the right one for her. Even if you don’t participate in a formal challenge, it’s good to give yourself new goals once in a while.
So now you know what I’ll be up to in October. I might not be online much, and I sure won’t be savoring any pumpkin lattes, since I’m fueled by Diet Coke instead of coffee. But I will be writing. And that means I’ll not only be advancing my career (hopefully) but I’ll be doing something that matters to me.
And that will be something to be thankful for.
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To sign up for National Novel Writing Month visitwww.nanowrimo.org
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Cindy Spencer Pape firmly believes in happily-ever-after and bringsthat to her writing. Award-winning author of 16 novels and morethan 30 shorter works, Cindy lives in southeast Michigan with herhusband, two sons and a houseful of pets. When not hard at work writing she can be found dressing up for steampunk parties and Renaissance fairs, or with her nose buried in a book, or online at:
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