At the Starting Line of Nanowrimo!

Feel the excitement in the air? It’s Nanowrimo, and it’s only six days away. On November 1st, over 90,000 writers will be at the starting line, preparing for the month-long love fest that is National Novel Writing Month. We’ll be hunkering down over our computers banging the keys, updating words counts, cheering each other on as we inch closer each day to the finish line of 50,000 words.

This year, I’ve prepared - at least a little. In 2010, I decided to try Nanowrimo on the morning of November 1st. That was a learning lesson. A scene from the previous night - Halloween night - had haunted me, so I thought I’d write it out as far as I could take it. I figured if I wrote 50,000 words of crap, I’d whittle it down to a 5,000 word short story.

I arduously plugged away last November, learning the importance of structure and planning. I learned about pacing the story and pacing myself. Through the onset of carpal tunnel and a sore back, I kept my ass in the chair. After twenty one straight days of writing, exhaustion caught the best of me and I finally took a day off. And then I dove back in.

By November 30th, I’d written 53,000 words of crap. All first draft is crap though. I knew that. I set the novel to the side for six weeks, working on short stories and such. Then I dove back in, revising, cutting, reconstructing, writing new scenes. Piecing the story together, deconstructing it again. Whittling. Filling in between the lines. Blending colors. Shaping the story.

Six more weeks of work and then I put it to the side again. More gestation. Finally, it struck me I could do this forever. Continually revising like Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the hill. I gave myself a deadline, contacted a friend of mine who is a professional editor, told her I’d give her the manuscript by August 31st. By mid-September, the local Staples had printed and bound the manuscript and it was in my editor’s hands. Ten months after writing the first word it was ready for someone to read.

Of course, there are more revisions in the future for last year’s manuscript, and a few more ideas have cropped up that might strengthen the work. But now I’m preparing for the 2011 Nanowrimo. Stretching my muscles and my mind. I’ve actually outlined a “road trip” story this year, done research, watched a few “road trip” movies such as “Thelma and Louise” and “Little Miss Sunshine.”

In the past few days, it’s been fun to watch friends on Twitter and Facebook mentioning the event. It’s as if a big crowd has gathered at the starting line of a great virtual marathon. Newcomers and repeat writers all waiting in nervous anticipation for the starting gun to go off. 91,000 people standing together with butterflies in our stomachs. You can feel it in the air.