Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?
This is a doozy of a question, but allow me to drop a plug for IWSG before I dive in. The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, founded by the esteemed Alex J. Cavanaugh, is an online space where writers (insecure and otherwise) can come together to share stories, successes, struggles, and all the rest of it. The website is chock-o-block full of great stuff. There’s a Twitter Pitch, which I haven’t checked out yet, contests, books, swag, conferences, and more. Be sure to jump over there and check them out! The awesome co-hosts for the November 1 posting of the IWSG are Tonja Drecker, Diane Burton, MJ Fifield, and Rebecca Douglass! Do follow the links and jump over to their sites to say hello.
Okay, back to the question. NaNoWriMo. Do I usually finish my projects, and have I gotten any of them published? I’ve written about my views regarding the merits of NaNoWriMo before this. If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, check out this earlier post I wrote that explains all (well, nearly all).
Here’s the thing. I’m a fiercely competitive person. It’s ugly, or rather I turn ugly when I engage in activities with a competitive component. There are dark times in my childhood related to Red Rover, pick-up games of football at recess, gym sports.
Despite what some might argue, NaNoWriMo does have a competitive edge embedded into it, and if I’m not careful I could slice myself wide open on it. Not to mention my friends, my family, my graduate studies, my job.
Do participants actually compete with other folks during the event? No. However, there are achievement badges we can earn, forums where people can “support” each other. I have “Writing Buddies” whose progress I check on. There’s definitely an inherent feeling that I need to keep up with the authorial Jones going on when I participate.
I Always Win, but…
I cheat. Oh, Thor! Do I ever cheat! The first year I did it, I won fair and square. But that was the only
time I penned all 50k in November. And, that project was far from “finished.” That draft didn’t wrap itself up until March! It’s not getting published, by the way. It’s a steaming pile. Which is fine. I learned a LOT writing that draft. Of course, cinderella stories exist about breakout authors whose best-selling debut novels were drafted during NaNoWriMo. I remain highly skeptical. To discuss further would merit a whole other post.
This year is the first year since my original foray into the world of NaNoWriMo that I haven’t begun working on my WIP early. No, wait. Scratch that. I totally gave myself a 12,000-word head start. Why? Because I have a problem, that’s why.
If I don’t take some of the pressure off by getting a block of writing done in advance, thereby lowering the daily word count goal from a genuinely challenging 1,667 to something closer to 1,000, ugly me might emerge once more. Plus, it makes the volume of words I need to write in November actually fit into my life without harming my spouse or my children. Yes! My children! I do it for my children! Justification accomplished.
It’s Not Really About Winning or Losing
The spirit of NaNoWriMo is about getting writers to put words on the page. If that’s the ultimate goal, who cares if I get a head start, especially if the story is calling to me?
It’ does, too. The closer November first gets, the more I find myself thinking about the story and itching to get at it.
For me, that itch is one of the biggest pros to taking part in NaNoWriMo. I just need to mitigate the underlying competitive aspects of the event, dull the sword’s edge if you will. 30,000 words in a single month is still a challenging goal for me. It’s just… less challenging, and therefore less likely to bring out the I-must-win-at-all-costs-and-if-you-get-in-my-way-so-help-me-I-will-end-you side of my personality.
At the end of the month, I log my wins. That first year, when I won fair and square, I celebrated by purchasing Scrivener, a new fountain pen, and a new notebook. Every year after that, I’ve rewarded myself with a new fountain pen and a new notebook, but I don’t feel right about taking advantage of the coupons and discounts and whatnot if I don’t load all 50,000 words into 30 days.
When my kids get a little older and I’m not in the midst of a graduate program, then maybe I’ll put the edge back on NaNo. For now, though, I’ll stick with my Bokken sword. Speaking of which… I do believe it’s time to do battle!
I can’t be the only person who does this. Fudge the start date, I mean. How about you? Do you usually finish your NaNoWriMo projects?