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Happy NaNoWriMo!

It’s November 1st!  Are you doing NaNoWriMo?

I’m still not sure.  I’m writing this October 31st (last night) at 6:43, so I still have 5 hours and 17 minutes to make up my mind. I fist-bumped Elizabeth Boyle this weekend that I’d do NaNo with her, which I think may possibly be as binding as a blood oath, so it’s likely that I’ll do it for fear I may, like, lose my soul to some otherworldly being or something if I back out.

If you’re unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, this stands for National Novel Writing Month.  It takes place every November and consists of sacrificing your entire life for a month to the writing gods committing to writing 50,000 words on a new novel in a month.  Sounds scary, huh?  It is.

Well, it seemed like it would be that first year I did it anyway.  That was two years ago, and the idea of carving out time to write 1667 words a day for 30 straight days (even with Sundays and Thanksgiving off) seemed horribly daunting.  But I decided to give it a shot. There were days I seriously questioned my sanity.

But I met my goal.  I wrote 50,000 words.  They weren’t all good words.  In fact some of them were downright awful. But I learned a HUGE lesson that month:


No matter how often I bemoan how little time I have to write, no matter how many times I repeat the excuse to anyone who challenges me to get cracking on whatever I’m writing and stop trying to justify my procrastination…I DO have time.

I bet you do, too.

It’s not easy. I’m not trying to tell you it is.  And I would never want to keep up the frenetic pace of NaNo beyond a month, or maybe two months (spaced very far apart), a year.   At least not while working a full-time job and taking care of a family.  If I wrote full time, I think 50,000 words a month could be achieved more often.

Succeeding at NaNo is a sacrifice.  I gave up some television (made possible through the miracle of TiVo).  My appalling housekeeping practices went even further downhill.  I may have skipped the occasional shower and the odd hour or three of beauty sleep.

But I wrote 50,000-freaking words. In a month. No matter how you look at that, that’s awesome.  Even if I’d only written 35,000, or 25,000, thus not “winning” by NaNo rules, it would have been a success, as it would have been 35,000 or 25,000 more than I’d had before November.

Adapting the Rules to Make it Work for YOU

I’m not typically a rule-breaker…except when I am. The first year I did NaNo, I did it strictly by the book.  I signed up, declaring my intentions publicly. I wrote 50,000 words on a new book (new being the critical part).  I submitted the pages for verification before midnight on November 30, and got my badge to prove I had “won.”

Last year, I wasn’t even planning on doing NaNo.  I didn’t have a new book to write.  I’d broken up with my agent, so was feeling depressed.  But then I had an idea.  I’d cheat.  I would do NaNo, but write 50,000 words worth of blog posts for my soon-to-be website, The Happy Writer, instead of work on a new book.  I didn’t officially sign up (since I was cheating), so I never had my success verified by NaNoWriMo officials.  But still.  I damn did it.

Did it matter that I didn’t follow the official rules? Maybe.  But not to me.  To me it only mattered that I dedicated November to my writing, to stretching myself outside of my usual boundaries.  I pushed myself.

We should all push ourselves sometimes. It’s good for the soul and the self-confidence.

This month if I do NaNo, which I’m pretty sure I will, since I’d kinda like to keep my soul, plus Elizabeth Boyle scares me just a little bit, I’ll be writing 50,000 words. Some may be blog posts (since I have been slacking off while writing 2 workshops and a magazine article).  Some may be on my current book project (which I’ve been slacking off on while writing 2 workshops and a magazine article).  Some may be for my ShannonMcKelden blog (which may be so neglected that aliens have taken it over).

But I think I’ve got 50,000 words in there somewhere.  I may just have to stretch a bit to find them.

So, how about it? Are you NaNo’ing?  If you are, I’ll make sure to post some encouragement throughout the month.

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