“There’s a simple answer to that. I don’t believe I want to give simple answers,” said the vampire. “I think I want to tell the real story.” — Anne Rice, Interview With The Vampire
There’s a previous version of this post, likely buried somewhere in the drafts folder that I am putting off clearing out because techy things give me the heebiejeebies, but that’s okay, because the post I was writing and the post that you’re actually reading are two extremely different posts.
Yesterday, around this time, I started a blog post about how I was leaning more toward signing on for NaNo, but then a funny thing happened. I had three different conversations with three close and trusted friends, two writers and a reader, all independent of each other, but all with the same concerns.
Why did I want to officially sign on for NaNo? If I’m going to be writing anyway, why not count those words? Was this focus going to be a help or a hindrance to me?
While it’s true that, for some, keeping an eye on word count can be an easy way to measure progress, and it is certainly helpful for making sure a manuscript is the right length (can’t send a 100k epic to a short story market, for example) and keeping track of story points at the right place in the story, no one technique is perfect for everybody. For me, right now, what appeals is the focus on the story rather than the words. One friend asked how I measure progress if I don’t count words at this stage of the game. My answer was easy: scenes. Not counting them, but instead of “I will write two thousand words today,” rather, “I will write the scene where my hero and heroine argue about the villain.” That’s a concrete goal, it’s focused on the story and I’m happy with it. I’m probably going to go over that scene two or three times to add all the layers it needs, but for that one day, that scene is what I’m doing, and I’m in it and it’s in me. It’s also on the page, which is the whole point here, isn’t it? Allrighty then.
Same friend asked if there’s pressure on the wordcount – if others in whatever venue where I draw my NaNo support are hitting their goals, or exceeding, and I spent hours sweating a measly eight hundred words, which is only barely halfway there, would I feel sucky? The answer is an immediate yes. I would. I do. I have. But if the argument scene isn’t working? Well, that’s likely because something else that comes before it needs some attention, so maybe we need another scene before that? Usually, pegging what that missing scene is will get me off and running.
Speed, there’s another thing. I love the ideas of sprints; I really do. Years ago, I was in a writing group where we did the analog version, timed writings in notebooks. Get a prompt, pen on paper and keep on going until the leader for that night called time. Then we shared, and boy, did I love that. Loved it. Started more than one book that way. My Outcast Heart and Never Too Late were born out of such exercises, and I wouldn’t change a thing about that. The push to get 50k out in one month, though…yeeeaaaah, I don’t know that’s for me this year. There’s still time to change my mind on that, and there’s nothing saying I can’t be a friend of NaNo, because I have had a lovely time with it on other occasions, and I do love the social aspect. Maybe next year. Maybe Camp NaNo in the spring and/or summer will be the most natural thing in the world.
This year, though? This year, as two of the above friends pointed out, I’m finally getting my “me” back after too long away, and do I really want to try and fix what isn’t broken? Would I risk breaking what was fixed? As all three agree, if what I am currently doing now is getting me ever closer to The End, what would be my motivation for veering from that course? Because I “should?” Who says I should? Real writers NaNo? Well, sure, some. Some don’t. I haven’t taken a scientific poll, but I think I’m safe in assuming this is true. I do know real writers who don’t NaNo as well as those who do, at all stages of the game. So no, not all real writers NaNo. Should they? I haven’t the faintest.
In the end, what I have to do is protect the work. Keep going on until The End. If I’m going rogue, I can still keep track of my progress, my way. There’s something exhilarating about striking out on my own, sailing my own course. Striding through November with a piratical swagger and tell a tall tale or two about that process. That sounds pretty good right about now.