Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Friday, October 30, 2009

Think of It as 50 Pictures

One commodity has long eluded the effects of inflation. For decades, the going rate for a picture has held steady at one thousand words. Looking at it that way, writing 50,000 words during the month of November should be a breeze. That's, on average, only 1 2/3 pictures a day. Pretty easy, right?

You try it.

I’m not being facetious. I’m saying: Try it. Really.

November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.1 For those who participate, the goal is to write a novel in 30 days. That prospect may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be; no one will judge you if you don’t reach the 50,000-word plateau, or if your story doesn’t turn out as masterful as you had imagined. It’s a first draft, after all. Get your ideas down on paper and see where they lead you. You can always go back later to refine the writing.

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo twice, and on both occasions I’ve fallen far short of 50,000 words, but I still think of each one as a success. For my first attempt in 2006, I talked of 50,000 but set myself a more realistic goal: 17,500 words, or about two hundred more than my previous longest (unfinished) work of fiction. Not only did I achieve my (lesser) goal, making the story my longest to date, but I fell in love with the outlandish tale I was creating. For the first time, I truly felt like a writer.

I kept at it. The following November, I took a break from that novel to start a new one, and bested my previous year’s tally by a few thousand words. I kept at that one, too, for a little while, but inevitably I was drawn back to the other tale.

Three years later, I’m still hard at work on that same novel I began in 2006. I did revert to my usual glacial pace after that first month, but I’m inching ever closer to a completed first draft. Earlier this week, I even surpassed the 100,000-word threshold.

I’m planning to do NaNoWriMo again this year, but once again with my own goals. I won’t be starting a new novel or striving for 50,000 words, but I will be striving. I may aim for 20,000 words, or 20 days of writing out of 30, or 3 completed chapters. Even if I don’t reach those targets, I still succeed, for I will have written.

You don’t have to play by their rules; just use this as an impetus to get you going. If you have an idea that’s itching to get our of your head, stop thinking about it and start writing. Hell, if I can do it, it can’t be too hard.

You try it.

1 As opposed to the Nanorhino, scourge of microbiology students everywhere.

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