In the world of writers—both amateur and professional—November means more than eating Turkey and grabbing bargains at the mall. November is NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month. But I have unilaterally decided to rename it NaNoWhineMo because this Novermber, I have been doing more whining than writing.
If you do NaNoWriMo they way it was originally intended to be done, you write 1667 words or more every day of November and wind up with at least 50,000 words by the end of the month. In theory, you will have officially written the rough draft of a book, or at least most of one. Accomplishing this gargantuan task by December first means you have “won.” Winning makes you eligible for prizes donated by NaNoWriMo sponsors—most of which would not interest anyone but writers—but by far the greatest honor is getting the “Winner” badge added to your book’s icon on the official NaNoWriMo website.
Here’s the tricky part for a Jewish writer: There are four Shabboses in November, and even for professional writers, like me, writing anything of significant length on Friday and Motzei Shabbos is a perpetual challenge. Jewish writers have developed strategies: Write more the other days of the week. Feed your kids fish sticks for Shabbos and thus free up some time Friday morning. Bribe yourself with an ice cream run if you get in two hours of writing after havdalah.
I wish I could get out of Thanksgiving cooking, but attempts to persuade my in-laws that Empire individual turkey pot pies are acceptably festive have failed.
Overall, last NaNoWriMo was a positive experience for me. I decided to write a middle-grade novel of less than half the recommended 50,000 words, and I not only wrote it but revised it last November. That book, im yirtzeh Hashem, will be coming out in early 2019.
After that accomplishment last year, I got cocky this time around. I told myself, “I can write 50,000 words—no problem! Not only did I finish that shorter project last year, but I’ve written full-length novels before! I’m a professional! I can handle this.”
(Besides, there is no rule stating that those 50,000 words have to be good.)
The first week went swimmingly. I successfully wrote 1700+ words every day. Every evening, I would log onto the official NaNoWriMo page and admire the lovely bar graph that described my daily word counts marching steadily towards 50,000.
My second week started out okay, but a couple days in, I started to diverge from my outline. Now, some writers have no problem with this, but I tend to write best when I plan my books in detail. The farther I wandered from my outline, the harder—and slower—I wrote. On Sunday, I made it to 400-some words and started to cry. On Tuesday, I wrote nothing. Yesterday, I looked at the word count bar graph and cried some more.
I need to be honest. Yes, I have written novels before, but each one that topped 50,000 took at least a year. That additional time allowed me time to recalibrate my outline any time the original version didn’t work out. It let me ponder plot problems or do extra research.
I haven’t totally given up, but it’s likely that I will flunk NaNoWriMo this year. Unlike flunking Algebra or Statistics, there is no serious consequence for failing to complete NaNoWriMo, other than a bruised ego.
Good thing my ego is used to taking a few blows.