There’s a chill in the air, the leaves have fallen, the smell of exhaust hangs heavy in the morning as people warm their cars to defrost the windows, the unwanted pumpkins have begun to rot in front of the stores, and one can hear the first murmurings of family plans for Thanksgiving. Here in Indiana we’ve seen our first snowfall. And God bless it, the Halloween candy has gone on sale, price cuts just in time to stock up.
Yep, it’s definitely the season of NaNoWriMo.
Two days until the start of National Novel Writing Month, a glorious anticipatory period when one is excited to begin, pens at the ready, and has somehow managed to forget the insanity—the painful, hair-pulling, head-banging insanity—brought by the ensuing 30 days. On the official forums, there are already write-ins scheduled here and there and everywhere, gatherings of like-minded writer folk who huddle in cafes, bookstores, bars, restaurants, and any nooks and crannies they can find in order to type away while maintaining some semblance of a social life. Right now we all have fresh faces, bright eyes, and wide smiles; our clothes are neat and our hair is brushed.
Check back in two weeks; all that will have changed. Oh sure, we may still be congregating in public, packs of wild-eyed writers, but we’ll look haunted, not rosy. Our smiles will have given way to grimaces. Clothes? Think pajamas. And you’ll seriously doubt we’ve ever even heard of hairbrushes, let alone own one.
But that time hasn’t come yet. No, now is the time of exhilaration when we delight in being writers, when we’re stimulated by the challenge we’re about to undertake. Some of us have notes and outlines and a plan; others have nothing more than a keyboard and a vague idea and the seat of their pants. No matter how a participant approaches NaNoWriMo, they all come with the same thrill.
50,000 words in 30 days. It’s insanity. Foolish. Crazypants. And yet here we are.
I have my story. Characters, outline, handwritten notes, the whole works. I’m ready. I’m eager.
…and I’m doing it a little bit differently this year.
Yes, I’m going full throttle for the usual goals: write that damn novel (or at least 50,000 words of it) during the month of November. But I’ve also decided to add an extra element, a little side project, that is in no way necessary and just might prove to be my undoing, the feather that adds just enough weight to send everything crashing down.
Or it will be awesome. Too early to say.
What’s this addition, you ask? (Or you don’t ask. But that’s never stopped me from telling people anyway.) A log of the experience. I’ve decided that throughout the month, concurrent with writing my novel and losing my damn mind, I’m going to chronicle the event from my perspective, a record likely to be a mash of anything and everything even remotely NaNo-related: notes to myself, jubilant scribbling in moments of triumph, despaired scrawling in times of darkness, general thoughts on the process and my fellow Wrimos, word count, state of mind, etc.
I suspect this endeavor will do little more than chronicle a downward spiral into madness, beginning nice and neat, full of promise, and gradually devolving into incoherent, illegible pen marks. If I manage to keep up with it throughout, if I succeed not only at the NaNoWriMo challenge but also my self-imposed task, then this could be epic.
Or it could crash and burn. Again, it’s too early to say.
Why this side project, you ask? (I’m pretending you’re asking.) Here’s the thing: I have a bright, shiny new notebook just waiting to be filled.
Every NaNoWriMo session, I try to order at least one thing from the online store and toss in a small donation on top of it, because I very much believe in supporting a good cause that encourages people to get creative. I wish something like this, on this scale, had been around when I was in high school and just finding my footing as a writer, and because NaNoWriMo is so beneficial to me now—I’ve finished a handful of projects, some good, some salvageable, and some so awful we do not speak of them—I want to give back.
So as this year’s good deed, I donated and ordered an obscenely expensive notebook with the NaNoWriMo typewriter graphic on the front. (Seriously folks, $14 for a damn notebook, no matter how nifty, is seriously pushing the bounds of good sense and my generosity.) And now that it has arrived, what to do with it?
Document how NaNo stole my soul, of course! I’ve even pulled out the highlighters and colored Sharpies for this one. At the very least, this little venture will prove amusing (to me, if not to everyone else). If all works out, I’ll be posting the occasional scanned pages here, just to document my ink-stained journey.
Two days until NaNoWriMo officially starts. One and a half days until I’m at the local NaNoWriMo kick-off party, a NaNoWeen extravaganza to celebrate both the holiday and the first step towards writing madness. After that it’s 30 days until I (hopefully) stumble across the finish line.
Is anyone willing to be waiting there with a large glass of red wine and a couple carpal tunnel braces? I’m going to need them.