Since 2007, every year (except one) I’ve participated and won National Novel Writing Month – or Nanowrimo, and I’ve adored it every single time. It’s a rush, the enthusiasm, the pep talks, all the help and groups and word sprints. Almost every October I rush to get all my November projects done ahead of time so I can concentrate on the monumental task of producing a 50,000 word narrative in only 30 days. I am a huge supporter of National Novel Writing Month.
one year I took a break to actually finish editing my Nanowrimo rough draft. I couldn’t finish the edit before November and I was loathe to put it aside. I decided to push through and only edit, without the magical deadline, in order to do the best job I possibly could.
I completely flopped. I put things off. I didn’t make the best use of my time, and I felt a stab of jealousy whenever someone posted their own word counts and progress. I know, I know, but I’m not a perfect person. I still worked on my project but without the deadline, the project eventually ended up on the wayside, pushed aside while I worked on other projects that had real deadlines.
And I just didn’t pick it back up.
The next year, I decided take incorporate my “weaknesses” into my strategy. I knew I would be posting flash every week. How could I not? I’m completely addicted to short form. But I also knew that to participate in Nanowrimo, I was supposed to write one 50,000 word work of fiction – one with a beginning, middle, and end. And, of course, I also had personal weekly deadlines for flash fiction. Namely, Fridays.
So I decided to write fifty or more flash stories, depending on length, but to string them together in such a way that they would technically be one story. Deadline? check. Flash to edit and post every week? check. Nanowrimo impetus? CHECK. All I needed to do was come up with a loose outline and write a couple flash stories each day in the framework.
That outline quickly got out of hand and became a much bigger story than I’d anticipated. But I was so excited with where it went, I kept going, and in order to keep the magical deadline I began posting it in serial installments on my blog. So far, it seems to be working. I get to participate in not one but TWO writing communities while I revise and edit, and I honestly think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written.
And then November came AGAIN.
I’ve already tried skipping to edit the story, which didn’t work for me. I’ve already tried beginning a new story and coming back to the old, which I somehow never came back to. I know that deadlines and community work really well for me, but I wouldn’t be starting a new project.
I didn’t care.
Forget the rules. Whatever works, whatever gets those words out there and gets my story out there is what I’m going to use. The spirit behind Nanowrimo is to get your story written in a way that works for you. I’m doing this the way that works for me.
And thanks to Nanowrimo, as well as Friday Flash, I’ve discovered how to succeed at something I love. By discovering my strengths, my weaknesses, and with the support of the community of writers around the world, I can make my dreams come alive by sharing my stories with the world.
I don’t measure success by books sold but by the stories told. And by that measure, both Nanowrimo and Friday Flash have succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest imaginings.
Now, all I need is a pair of sunglasses and a motorcycle. After all, I have a rebel image to maintain.
*image courtesy of Nomadic Lass via Flickr under Creative Commons License.