I’ve done NaNoWriMo several times in the past decade, and while I haven’t done it every year, any time I did participate, I completed the original goal–handily. I have a personal goal of writing 2,000 words a day, and I’ve been doing it consistently for many months if not a year. This means if I just continue doing what I do, I will easily meet the NaNoWriMo goal.
One year, I set my own goal. I decided I would edit a manuscript I already had, and that was very satisfying in its own way. I’ve realized that while I appreciate NaNoWriMo and thinks it’s an excellent way for people to make themselves write if they ordinarily wouldn’t, I have no use for the original goal. I don’t feel any sense of accomplishment in meeting it, so the whole thing is a bit hollow for me. One year, I set the goal at 200,000 (I think). I made it, and that was quite the thrill. However, I’m not sure that setting an arbitrary number is the most productive use of my time. In addition, I have OCD tendencies, which means I fixate on numbers as if they’re gods.
It was one of my biggest problems when I was dieting. I had all these numbers that Meant Something, and they slowly morphed into the be-all, end-all. In addition, the final number (the goal weight I wanted to be) kept moving any time I got even close to it. The first time I started a diet, I was counting calories. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself, but I started assigning values to the numbers. Some were bad and some were good. That spiraled into they were all bad, and at the end of that road was anorexia/bulimia.
The second time, I had a goal weight, plus I used a tape measure. I was losing roughly a half inch a week, and that quickly became the standard. If I didn’t reach that half inch, it would make me miserable for the whole week. In addition, I had a hard and fast rule about how much exercise I had to do a day, and I thought it was reasonable that I set it at 2 hours of aerobics every day and forty-five minutes of weight-lifting every other day.
It works the same when I’m writing. Because I have a personal goal of 2,000 words a day, I have a mentality like, “Reach 500 words and take a mini-break.” “Reach a thousand words and do one mission/quest in MHW.” It’s not a bad way to write, but it can become rigid. My own weird brain thing is that things have to be broken up into quarters. In this case, quarters of a hundred. I’ve told this story before, but I used to have a compulsion that if I saw a clock at any quarter of the hour, I had to rapidly count to 25 (another quarter) before the clock changed. My last therapist once asked me what would happen if I didn’t make it, and I said I would be upset. She persisted, asking me what practically would happen, and I was flummoxed. I couldn’t answer her, of course, and that was the beginning of the end to my counting.
Back to NaNoWriMo. I am thinking of doing it again, but I have to come up with a way to make it personally meaningful. I will continue to write my 2,000 words a day, and I may even start a new novel. That’s another part of the NaNoWriMo thing–you have to start a new novel. I get it. They want it to be fresh and new and exciting. I adhered to it most of the years I did NaNoWriMo, but now that I have several of them under my belt, I’m all about breaking the rules.
Here’s the thing. Writing is not an issue for me. For most of my life, the words have flown from my fingertips readily and easily. I’ve had a few writer’s blocks, but not many. One lasted a really long time, but for the most part, they’re very temporary. I have characters and stories in my head constantly, and my biggest problem is running out of steam halfway through. I’m really good with beginnings, characterization, and dialogue (though I lean too heavily on dialogue), but I am shite with titles, endings, and descriptions.
I’m pretty damn good at editing (and I should be since that’s what I do as a J-O-B), so I’m not too worried about that, either. The part of writing at which I absolutely suck is–marketing. The business side. I understand it pretty well, but I’m just not good at it. I know that in this day and age, it’s best to continually hawk your shit on social media, but everything in me cringes at doing that. I hate the idea of tweeting about my writing constantly and begging people to read my shit. I know I should reframe it in a more positive way, but it’s hard for me not to feel as if I’m on the street hawking my wares.
Still. The publishing side of writing is my bugaboo. I have an account on Amazon for self-publishing, but I haven’t done anything with it. In part it’s because I’ve heard negative things about it (they take too big of a cut; their proprietary restrictions are harsh; they don’t give any support to the ‘little’ people), and there still is a negative attitude towards people who self-publish. I don’t have the same harsh attitude towards it that many people do, but it really doesn’t have the same cache as being published by someone else. I do think traditional publishers are maybe not quite as revered as they used to be, but you’ll still have immediate cred if you can say, “Penguin is going to publish my book.”
I think I’m going to focus more on the marketing/publishing side of writing this NaNoWriMo. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but it’ll include reading articles about both. Maybe finding examples of authors who are good at promoting themselves in ways in which I am comfortable. At any rate, I need to shake things up so I don’t just coast my way through NaNoWriMo again. I want to get the most out of it that I can.