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running around loose with 50 grand

2009's first write-in at Genuine Joe's

I hated Brownies, Girl Scouts, and Girls’ Club. After-school clubs, organizations, or whatever you were supposed to join to add sparkle to your college application–no. And sororities? They scared the hell out of me. Anything that comes with a cheer is instant soul-sucking death. I might have shortened my life expectancy by going to a Mary Kay meeting once. And the facebook groups I have joined and even created make me feel like I’ve gone down a wrong path.

I am not a joiner.

But I love NaNoWriMo. It is the first group thing I’ve participated in that is filled with people I could’ve been friends with in high school. It is temporary. One month and you’re done. I now know people I see once a year–and that’s the way it should be. It is free.

Where else do you get a group of people together with a similar goal/interest/passion, and yet each person goes about it in his or her own unique/quirky/absurd way? Reach 50k or don’t. Nobody cares as long as you’re writing. I know participants who never intend to write fifty thousand words. There is no rule about what to do next. Edit and try to be published. Publish yourself. Hide it away. Delete the whole thing. One fellow finishes his novel and come December first, he deletes the file. He doesn’t write again until November the next year.

The first novel I wrote took years. It was like slogging through a swamp of words in a dense fog. That NaNoWriMo goal, 50k in 30 days, is sunshine on a path. There is no edit and create at the same time. The goal isn’t write a great novel in 30 days. I couldn’t do that. I might never do that no matter how many days I’m given. I’m rewarded and approved of for quantity! That I can do.

The rest of the year is for quality. Hours spent picking over sentences and cutting out scenes and wondering what the point of it all is. Maybe I could say that 11 months of the year is like being a soldier getting ready for inspection and November is shore leave.

What goals do you need to help you write? When was the last time your imagination ran around loose on the page?

16 thoughts on “running around loose with 50 grand

  1. I love Nano too. It’s the only way I’m going to get a first draft out of that length.

    And I love the people. When I can I go to the reunions that are held monthly in London for the rest of the year. These are my kind of people: geeky, in love with computers and slightly mad in different ways.

    Not that I’m saying you’re like that! Just some of the London Nanoers.

  2. I don’t know what I’d need. I like the flash fiction things going on Fridays now. But today, I don’t have a story yet. So I guess it’s not as motivating as I thought. But I couldn’t do NaNo. It’s just … I don’t know. I’m the exact opposite of you in terms of feeling the pressure for 50K in a month. And I’m too much a concrete-literalist for me NOT to work for that 50K.

    Still, I’m not a joiner either, and I bet that’s why I’ve not joined it before. Even when I thought it might be fun.

    Your insights on this are interesting.

    • I was reluctant to join in and the first year participated in no events at all. I stayed home and worked on my novel. Got 50k. That was it. The next year I decided to give the write-ins and things a try. It was weird at first, but by the end of the night, I had loads of words and met someone who is now one of my best friends.

      But don’t do it if it will set you back. I’m not trying to gain converts–just explaining my own experience.

      • Oh, I know, I was just stating how I (think) I am. It’s interesting to me, but I don’t believe I’d be successful with it. And I’m not someone who can do much of anything without attaching a measure of success or failure to something. If there’s nothing to win, why bother keeping score? That sort of thing.

        ‘S just me though.

  3. I love nano, too. I also wrote my first complete novel draft in about 3 years.

    Sometimes I wonder what I could have done with all those hours I spent writing. Three novels???

    Nano has taught me so much about what I am capable of. As a writer, as a person.

    In many ways, the biggest struggle of writing is the one that is inside of you, the one between your desire to write and your belief that you are not good enough.

    Nano gets past that struggle by simply riding roughshod over the I’mnotgoodenough side.

    And we get to take those lessons with us, when we’r done with nano.

  4. Oh, I’m definitely not a joiner. When I found out that blogs were considered a sort of social networking, I thought, Huh? ‘Social’? ME?

    If I ever did NaNo I strongly doubt I’d do it as a member of a group, cheering one another on. It’s been tempting for the last two years to dive in, I’ll admit; it sounds like the perfect way to jazz one’s Muse. And I’ve watched in fascination as you and others have blogged/FB’d/Twittered about the group writing sessions. But the thought of actually participating in the latter, even with people I know, gives me the screaming whim-whams. I’d be too self-conscious: that I wasn’t typing fast enough, that I was typing too fast, that I wasn’t interacting enough or too much, that I had a seat at which what was on-screen was too visible, that people would think I was trying too hard to hide the nearly-empty screen or, conversely, showing off the one filled with text, that I’d forget where I was and be found out because I’d toggled into Firefox and opened a YouTube video which started playing before I realized my mistake… The possibilities for mortification are endless.

    But I do really like the idea of running an intense marathon like NaNo.

    Oh, and the last time my imagination went crazy was a couple of paragraphs ago. 🙂

    • Well, it may not be for you, but unless you have a really weird typing style, no one pays any attention to what anyone else is actually putting on a screen–or how quickly/slowly they go. And plenty of people at write-ins are really on facebook or youtube. And we just look the other way!

      • “Typing style”?! Oh, great — another thing to be self-conscious about. (I’ve never had a single typing lesson but type really fast; I’m sure it looks completely, freakazoidically spastic to an outside observer, like a skeleton falling down a stairwell.)

  5. I like setting my own goals rather than doing a group thing and I like doing what I’m doing now which is setting a goal of a story a day for a number of days rather than a word count which has never worked for me. Counting words makes me anxious and squelches my creativity. I tried NaNo once in the past and learned that I can’t and am not interested in writing novels. I’m a flasher whether I like it or not.

    • Sometimes setting my own goal works. Sometimes I’m an idiot and need someone to set on for me. Like I don’t trust my own goals perhaps. Your goal now is really challenging and I doubt I could do anything like that. I don’t know why counting words frees my creativity, but it does. Creativity is like that though–hard to figure out most of the time.

      And hey, some people never know they are flashers! I know I’m a novelist–and will cry for the rest of my life plus seven years if anyone proves me wrong. Besides, your flashes are brilliant. Keep going.

  6. Oh my gosh, no, no, no, JES. The more I try to make something seem un-self-conscious–like see all the things you don’t need to worry about–the more self-conscious everyone seems.

    I’m going to be quiet now.

  7. Interesting. The whole idea is new to me. Right now, I just write sonnets, after work in my office in secret before heading home. Pathetic sonnets. I’d like to write something else. I worked on a short story for a while, but it’s a slog, and the words are never the right words somehow. And so I’m left with a store of hidden admiration for people who “really write” in public, where other people know what they are up to. I want to do that someday. Maybe. If it’s not too scary.

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