Drafting under Pressure, or, NaNoWriMo, Oh No!

I know a thing or two about dealing with pressure.

You develop the ability to at least fake a Zen-like calm when any irritation carries the threat of turning you into a humungous musclebound rage machine the color of a string bean.

Consequently, I've kept my cool - mostly - during aerial Chitauri attacks and during battles against guys with apt names like the Abomination. Plus I've managed to work with the arrogant and poke-happy head of Stark Industries without squashing him like a grape so far.

But you know what can still make me feel the pressure, what can still reduce me to a quaking Jello mold of self doubt?


And it's mere weeks away.

Many aspiring writers embrace NaNoWriMo every year. They are currently stocking up on caffeine sources, bookmarking thesaurus websites, and, if they're as old school as Cap, buying all of the Whiteout available at their local Staples or Office Max. In short, they're getting ready to produce a draft in thirty days or fewer. (And the wisest ones have been following this blog for advice about outlining, plotting, and prewriting).

NaNoWriMo is the closest thing writers get to a their very own holiday, and it inspires thousands of people to get to work on a novel every year. What's not to love about it?

The pressure.

Every November, I try even harder than I do every other month of the year to squeeze in as much writing time as I can into a schedule already packed with working on a cure for gamma radiation poisoning, providing medical care for Indian orphans, and, occasionally, saving the planet from utter destruction. And every year, by mid-November, it becomes clear to me that I will not produce anything even remotely close to a full draft.  I feel ashamed and frustrated as I watch my friends and colleagues post ever-burgeoning word counts to Facebook and Twitter though I congratulate them even as my word count somehow seems to shrink. By the end of November, I feel like a failure, even as I remind myself that word counts are not exactly a scientific measure of one's success as a writer. (As Loki's WIP illustrates, it doesn't take long to produce several pages of incoherent nonsense.) More importantly (and charitably), some people work faster than others and some books are, due to their subject matter or level of complexity, going to take longer than thirty days to draft. To borrow a shopworn phrase, writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes lots of drafts.  But it's easy to lose sight of that in the NaNoWriMo hoopla. So this year, I'm going to keep writing, but I'm opting out of NaNoWriMo. (I'm not much of a "joiner, anyway).

While that's my choice, if having a month designated as "novel writing month" gives you the kick in the pants you need to start that novel you've been tossing around, then get to that keyboard on November 1st and get to work! But if, on November 30, despite the best of your intentions, you won't have that draft done, don't give up on it. There is absolutely no force in the universe (except maybe gamma rays) that will prevent you from continuing work on that draft on December 1st or beyond. There's no real finish line here in novel writing - at least not until you get that offer from an agent or editor or get that call from the Nobel prize committee.

So - for those about to NaNoWriMo, we salute you.

And if you're not - or if you sign on but don't finish that draft by November 30 - we YAvengers salute you, too.

Write at your own pace, friends.

But write.

1 comment:

  1. This post was awesome and very encouraging! I'm a slow writer compared to my writing friends, so I may never get to 50k in a month. But this NaNo, I'm rebelling and working with a project I've already started. I'm going to use NaNoWriMo to finish my novel, instead of start it.