Why I do NaNoWriMo even if I don't write 50,000 words.

How do you measure stories? Metric word-tons? Faerie statistics? Syllabic tonal scales? Fish data-points? So I've told 247 fish data-points of stories, a conservative estimate because I've only written a handful down.

Creative writing is not the same as blogging or writing essays. While I don't have the appropriate MLA-formatted scientific reference to prove this statement, in my experience, writing exercises a different part of the brain than drawing or painting or project management or gardening or doing dishes.

Digital mash-up of inktober work, daisyyellowart.com

Look, I'm not the fastest fiction writer. I've got good ideas - super creative ideas - but I edit as I write. The concept of a crappy draft doesn't work for me! So I try to write a pretty good story as I go. Yes, I'll go back and edit but it won't be a massive rewrite. 

So I'm writing a sci fi novel about a psychiatrist who gets involved in a dream therapy and discovers a conspiracy. I started writing on November 1, 2015 and over the course of 3 Camp NaNos and 2 NaNos I've written 36,901 words. So I haven't even written 50,000 words YET!

how can nano be valuable even if you don't win?

NaNo adds depth to my entire creative process, whether that's mixed media art or writing articles about creativity or engaging with new art materials or teaching workshops. I facilitate creative groups and challenges throughout the year. This writing challenge injects SO much adrenalin into all of my work [both the writing and the art] even if you do not meet the stated goal of 50,000 words. My goal each year is much more feasible to ME, about 12,000 - 17,000 words, depending on what else I have going on.

If you are a creative soul, this is such a gift to yourself {a luxury}...  to allow yourself to focus on one aspect of your creative work for an entire month. Here's how I hopscotch through the year via creative challenges.

In April, I do Camp NaNoWriMo with a small word goal like 5,000 in my on-going novel. 
In June + July I facilitate the Index-Card-a-Day Challenge. I started the challenge in 2011 and we just finished the 7th annual event! {This year I wrote a 10-part weekly Gazette for challengers, pushing myself to practice my story-telling skills.}
In July, I do Camp NaNoWriMo again with a small goal. It just pushes me BACK to my story. 
In October, I work with ink daily throughout Inktober.
In November it's NaNoWriMo. am not going to shoot for 50,000 words because what I really need to do is write an outline of my existing story. I've reached a point where it just needs to be done. I don't really WANT to do it, but I need to do it in order to give this story the ending chapters it deserves and so needs. 

It's incredibly energizing to write, knowing that hundreds of thousands of people around the globe are writing too. In our house, my daughters {now 15 and 18} have worked the challenge for multiple years now! At 13, my younger daughter wrote 17.5K words at 16, my older daughter "won" NaNo with 56K words!

During NaNo the three of us have weekly "writer's group" meetings

1. We have meetings in my small office where we each open our MacBook and go around in a circle and read excerpts from our stories. 

a) a well-written section
b) a good description
c) something funny

2. At the weekly meeting we can ask for help with a particular concept or passage. 

a) we define what kind of help we want {in advance}, to minimize the chance of tears or misunderstandings. For example, there was a place in my story where my MC {main character} figured something crucial but it needed more drama. My younger daughter suggested that I describe my character's physical response {using the senses}. Definitely good advice! 

3. We also have group meetings in the car, because we have a l-o-n-g commute. These are creative brainstorming sessions where we work quickly to develop one sentence plots for silly stories, clever book titles, invent characters etc. It's a round-robin and sparks a lot of giggles.

But it's not my first rodeo, er, story.

When it was my turn to tuck-in the kids at bed-time, I would either read the kids a book or invent impromptu stories... for years and years... a few years beyond when they could read by themselves.

Inventing stories on the spot was something that I challenged myself to do, to push the limits of my creative thinking skills. The secret was to close my eyes and allow an idea from the day to float into my mind. I'd grasp that idea and attach it to another idea. Here's an example. The unrelated ideas raccoon + Jeopardy would flutter by. So I would make a character a raccoon and give him with the personality of Alex Trebek. So I'd put them together, like a jigsaw puzzle, stepping stones in the story. The ideas melded together to become a story about a scavenger hunt backstage on a TV game show. And the kids' reactions would also guide the stories. The parts of the stories that they liked most {in terms of laughter or gasps of surprise} would be embellished further. I'd wrap up the story with a good ending.

One story was about a girl who rode a skateboard that had magical powers. In another, the characters were numbers. Physically... numbers. A planet with farmers that grew silverware crops that were so valuable that people came from other planets to steal them. A horse-zebra and pack of animal characters that traveled the continent doing special assignments for the president.

My husband had his own series, one story told over many years. The girls were superheroes who traveled on adventures. They met up with an eclectic never-ending array of superheroes with powers for both good and evil.

More INfo @ National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo does a lot of GOOD in the world and I support this non-profit with a donation every year. The challenge is free and the organization provides fun tools to track your progress, inspiring discussion forums, Twitter NaNo Sprints {to inspire you to WRITE}, etc. There are young writers' programs too, as well as online Camp NaNo in April and July where you can officially set lower writing goals. 

Daisy Yellow1 Comment