Monday, October 31, 2011

The Ghosts of NaNo's Past

Word Count -0

By this time tomorrow, hopefully I'll have something to replace the zero above! It's so exciting, knowing that I am t-minus thirteen hours and forty-five minutes from blast off for yet another amazing NaNoWriMo!

Its natural I suppose to look back on NaNo's past, to compare the goals of other years to the goals you've set for the coming challenge. A month ago if asked, I would have told you that my goal was to be at 50k on day ten - a lofty goal, yet not impossible.

It all goes back to my first NaNoWriMo, 2008. I heard about the challenge from the daughter of a friend of mine and I immediately signed up. I had two projects in mind, one a murder mystery, the other a story about two brothers and their childhood best friend, called The Twins and Lannie Jo. The second won out.

 That Halloween we went to see a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show, and so it was with rice stuck on various parts of my body and toilet paper stuck on the bottom of my shoe, I sat down to pound out my first NaNo words ever. I made it almost two weeks in, and then disaster struck. My old beaten up Compaq died, taking with it my 15k words and my dreams for winning NaNoWriMo that year.

In the end, it turned out to be a good thing. I never forgot my disappointment, I kept a countdown going all year - 11 months to November, 10 months, 9 months---all the way down to 1 month until at last, November was days away. I had the cliched fire in my guts. Not only was I going to win NaNoWriMo, but I was going to do it impressively. I was going to beat it at it's own game. I didn't have the heart to attempt my project from the year before again, so I went with my back up from the year before. A murder mystery of a crooked child protection worker called To Protect and Serve.

I was like a mad woman. I lived on my computer - a brand spanking new Dell with a shining 22 inch flat widescreen monitor. I woke up in the morning, I took care of my humanly needs, then I pounded away. My daughter ate frozen pizza - I ate chocolate. My daughter watched T.V. I typed. My daughter came in and asked if I remembered she existed -  "Who are you and what are you doing in my bedroom?" I asked in reply

I had set backs, at 49k, during a Sunday marathon to get my green bar by midnight, my computer forced an update shutdown, and I lost over 5k words. I screamed, literally screamed. I cried, I had a temper tantrum, I cussed at my computer. Our landlady called and threatened to evict us if I didn't knock it off.

The next day, in the middle of the night, I reached 50,000 words on day 15.  I don't remember my final word count that year, it didn't matter - I had climbed mount NaNoWriMo, and the view from the top was fricken AWESOME!

The euphoria lasted about twenty-four hours, then I realized that there was still 14 days left to go. My project was actually finished and I didn't have the strength or the ambition to attempt another one. NaNo let down. I spent the rest of November haunting the forums and counting down to NaNoWriMo 2010.

11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2...ONE!

Finally! November was here again! But I had already used my two story ideas. I had nothing original in mind, nadda, zip, ziltch. the big ZERO. The only thing I had was a fanfiction - a one shot that I wanted to turn into a full-fledged chapter length for the upcoming holiday season. So, despite the fact that it felt like cheating, I went with it.

Now there is nothing wrong with having a goal, and there is nothing wrong with a little friendly competition. But when someone annoys you in the forum and you end up hell bent on, not just finishing before them, but  determined to finish before they have 10k posted - it just isn't good. Which is where I was sitting this time last year. And so, I set the goal. I would improve on my 09 ending date by two days. November 13th.  By November 5th, I was living on chocolate and French Vanilla Cappuchino, my daughter was back to eating TV dinners and - knowing what was coming, not bothering to speak to me, in short, I was on track to meet my goal. Once again, I lost words - 6k this time, but I had learned by my mistakes. I had everything backed up and was able to recall all but 1k of them. And at 4 a.m. on November 12th, I had typed my 50k - and my nemesis was only at 3k.  Oh how I enjoyed the mental gloating. The psychological peacock strut - all of which, she couldn't even see.

I spent the rest of that November regretting it. I realized in my need for speed, I had lost out on the fun, the heart of the challenge. NaNoWriMo isn't about who finishes first, it is about finishing.

And so I sit now, the ghosts of NaNoWriMo past haunting me. Pride, regret, challenges and goals, all asking me - what are we going to do this year?

I keep telling them, slow and steady wins the race. This year, the only person I am competing with is myself. I am not competing against a past NaNo, I am not competing against another participant, I am competing against myself. My arrogance, my procrastination, my drive for perfection.

Will I win? Not sure. I think I will - I hope I will. But if I don't, I think I'll be okay with it. My goal for NaNo a month ago was to finish by the 10th - now, my goal is to have fun. To cherish every minute of the Nuttiness that is NaNoWriMo. The forum, the other participants, the right to overindulge on cappachino and chocolate without guilt, NaNo Chat on Skype and my circle on Google+.... and the words. So many, many lovely words.

With any luck, 50k of them.

So to my fellow participants, and all ours ghosts while we stand here at the starting line I say to you

 Ready, set....


End Notes: If you would like to join in the Skype NaNo (text) chat, we would love to have you!  Add me, Cjcirca12171965, and you will be added to the NaNo group

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Let's Get Going Already!

Word Count - 0

Let's get one thing straight off the bat. When it comes to procrastination, I don't just preach to the choir, I AM THE CHOIR. I am the preacher, the pulpit, the pew, I am the friggen CHURCH of procrastination. I figure in another year or two I will make it as a definition under procrastination in Urban Dictionary. But when you are being forced to procrastinate and you can't stand it,  there is something seriously F-ing wrong with this picture. 

That is what this final weekend before NaNoWriMo has been like for me, a picture that has gone horribly askew, dangling by a nail, about to fall off the wall. What makes this particularly ironic is that I am coming off a two month spell of writers block - finally broke by forcing myself to write. I spent hours staring at a blinking cursor, typing inane crap like:

 "He crossed the room and opened the door then slammed it very, very, very, very loudly"

 followed by the utterly brilliant

  "Don't do that" she said

And finally, after two days, I hit pay dirt.  15k words in a day and half.

Now I feel as if I am on literary fire, a pen with ink made of kerosene, and yet - I am not allowed to strike the match. Yes, this is a painting gone horribly wrong. Creative interruptus, 50,000 words dying to burst forth, imagination held prisoner.  And it's driving me mad.

Martin, Opie, Vicky and Bree are screaming to get out! Taylor wants to know who set him up and why he was murdered! His wife wants justice! This book WANTS to be written already!

So why is the calendar being so uncooperative?

I've decided it's revenge. Revenge for all those times I waited an extra hour to do the dishes. Revenge for all those extra days I waited to update chapters and appointments I rescheduled in December and January because I didn't want to go out in the cold. For all the times my daughter ate frozen pizza, the cookies I didn't bake, the Christmas cards from 1997 that are still waiting to be mailed and my wedding thank you cards that never did get mailed in 1990. It's the Gods of doing things in a timely manner, all standing on the Pearly Gates of Calendars, laughing and pointing at me in unabashed glee.

"It's the perfect revenge" They've gathered together, their heads thrown back in the ultimate gloating party - a celebration - because they know, as soon as midnight rolls around and November 1st comes at last, the will to procrastinate will return and the picture will be right as rain once again.

It's All About The Ride

Word Count - O

It's getting down there, just over a day to go until the start of what I feel is the holiday season for all writers - the start of NaNoWriMo.  If you've wandered in here by accident, you are probably asking yourself what NaNoWriMo is. My spell check certainly is, it's screaming out obnoxiously in squiggly red lines at me to click and fix my many errors. Ha! It's out of luck, I refuse to indulge it.  But, as you're not my spell check, let me explain.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writers Month, the yearly challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. In other words - thirty days and nights of literary abandon. Or as others might call it - thirty days and nights of chugging coffee beverages by the gallon, bags of chocolate products by the pound and indulging in productive insanity in the interest in earning a lovely purple bar that says winner. It isn't about writing quality, it is about writing quantity. That isn't to say you can't do both, NaNo novels have gone on to be published, but many more have ended up in the junk heap.

So what's the point you may ask?

The point, dear friends, isn't as much winning, as it is accepting the ride. Challenging yourself to do something you might not do otherwise. Like a runner in a marathon,  NaNoWriMo is a marathon of the mind, a sprint of the muse, a race for the imagination.  A challenge that knows no age, participants from 13 to 30 to 60 and beyond take up the NaNo sword every year. In some cases it even brings family together - mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, brothers and sisters - all writing together. This year, my daughter and I will be taking the challenge together for the first time!

Will we be victorious? I don't know, but I know that we will be enjoying the ride.

The coffee and chocolate too.