‘Tis the most wonderful time of the year, my friends! No, not the full onset of autumn. And no, not the pumpkin spice everything that’s currently available. And no, certainly not the upcoming holiday season. (For isn’t there always that moment of clarity when you’re at Thanksgiving dinner, eating mashed potatoes you don’t even want and listening to people ask yet again when you’re having those kids they know damn well you’re never going to have, that terrible moment when you remember how you swore last year to skip this year and wonder with horror how they managed to suck you back in again? No? Just me? Damn.) No, my dear readers, I speak of but one magical thing:
For those who somehow don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, I give you the official explanation from the website: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 on November 30.
That’s 1667 words per day. You cannot start writing before 12:01 a.m. on November 1st. You must verify your word count by 11:59 p.m. on November 30th. For four glorious weeks, you must write with the speed of a bat out of hell.
NaNoWriMo, at its heart, is insanity. Trying to write an entire novel in 30 days is absolutely batshit, and by the end of the month, the writers are just as psychotic. We’re sleep-deprived and over-caffeinated, lost in chaotic fantasy worlds, mumbling to ourselves about worlds and people that don’t exist outside the page. Here’s the breakdown of how the month goes:
Week One is pure excitement. The writer is still fresh, bright-eyed and enthusiastic, fingers flying over the keys and bursting with ideas.
Week Two is when the story grows uncooperative, throwing up blocks and grinding to a crawl, characters wandering off to do anything and everything but contribute to the epic tale promised during Week One. This is when the writer begins to bang her head against the wall—repeatedly.
Week Three is when the crazy sets in. The writer’s brain begins to ache, thoughts twisting and going rogue, focus deteriorating both in fiction and in real life. Sometimes there are tears; other times there are hissy fits and desperate naps.
Week Four is the home stretch, when the crazy turns into something strangely helpful. The writer is once more bright-eyed due to the mania that enables her ability to power through the final few thousand words. The end is in sight, assuming the writer doesn’t drop dead of exhaustion first.
November 30, Midnight is when the writer stumbles across the finish line, clicks the ‘Verify Word Count’ button, and collapses.
This will be my fourth NaNoWriMo. (I’ve also participated—and won—three sessions of Camp NaNoWriMo, sessions held in the spring and summer.) Out of my previous three attempts at Original Flavor NaNoWriMo, I’ve won two; the very first one was derailed by the real world, a family emergency that told pretty much everything to go fuck itself. That’s my history, folks, and I’m quite proud of it.
I’m also aware that every year I sign up is yet another year I’ll reach new levels of insanity. My friends expect me to disappear; my family knows I’ll be mental well before Thanksgiving.
With less than a month left until kickoff, the preparation period has begun in earnest, the planning happening at a fevered pace. I have a title, I have an outline, I have a synopsis, I have notes scattered around my apartment, and I have Evernote at the ready to keep track of all the revisions I’ll have to make when it’s all over.
Because every story is inevitably shit. Absolute, utter, undeniable tripe. Rubbish. Not fit to even be called writing. Assuming one doesn’t toss the story completely, there will be extensive revisions, many more hissy fits, and dark moments of hopelessness. But if one commits, if one keeps pushing through, if one is lucky, that NaNoWriMo project will be revised into something coherent by the time next November arrives.
So I’ve stockpiled coffee, filled my cabinets with bags of Halloween candy, and purchased stock in Aleve for when the arthritis in my hands flares up due to the incessant typing. (I say again: I’m already old at 28.) I’ve already targeted the walls upon which I’ll bang my head when everything goes to hell. (Hint: all of them.) Everything is ready to go.
And I can’t wait. I cannot freakin’ wait to go insane with the word-making and storytelling.
So wander back here in November to witness my unavoidable mental breakdown. It’ll be quite the show, I promise.