Why I Am NOT Participating in NaNoWriMo

Don’t get me wrong; I LOVE NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, which starts November 1 and ends November 30. If you’re a procrastinating writer like me, you need every cattle prod or device out there to kick you into the writing mode.

This is not to say I don’t enjoy writing. OF COURSE, I enjoy writing. But having other responsibilities, what ends up being short shrifted is my writing time. This year, there’s been other factors as well. Family members in dire health. Business in flux. An incredibly Bummer Summer which resulted in lots of rain, an extraordinary flash flood, and resulting damage, which of course, takes me away from pleasurable activities and instead has me planning out construction worker schedules.

Here is why I love me the NaNo… It’s an extremely useful tool. Just like jumping on a treadmill exercises your body, jumping head first into the waters of NaNoWriMo exercises your brain. It introduces you to keeping a schedule. It gives you a not unreasonable goal of 50K words in 30 days. There’s a camaraderie of fellow writers, across the internet and across town, that cannot be beat.

I’ve participated in NaNo many times. In fact, because of it, I managed to complete three manuscripts that turned out (with much editing and fine tuning) to be decent novels. (Still in the editing phase on two of them.)

Last year, I tried it for a week, and then decided that editing the work I’d been suffering over since 2007 (Finding Cadence) had to take precedence over any new material. So I put that idea aside. For later. I like the story, I just can’t have three completed novels in various states of disrepair hanging over my head like a black cloud.

This year, my problems are much the same. I’ve been toying with Virtually Yours Forever (completed during NaNo a few years ago) for… well, forever. It’s time to clean up this tale of moms, the internet, and high intrigue and get this story nailed down and move on to the next project.

I can no longer tell myself that I’ll write more when I retire from this business. The sad truth is that I might have to work until I die. But I’m also a writer, and I’m not going to sacrifice my art for outside influences.

Not anymore.

So to all you writers out there who are participating in NaNoWriMo – Bravo! or Brava! Keep pushing on. I’m there with you in spirit, and I hope will have my edit complete by November 30.



Pay it Forward, Pay it Backward, Pay it Any Way You Can

Goals. Like many writers, I have several with regard to writing, and coincidentally, many of these overlap my overall goals in life.

First and foremost is the honing of the craft. I wear many hats during the course of a day, and I can tell you from not-so-critical observation that not everyone can write. I’m in the position of speaking to many teenagers and their families in my Real Life work. Keep in mind, I’m not referring to the stellar among us, because I’ve met those too, and they give me hope. But I am concerned because some can barely string a sentence together, much less a story. It’s been said that our high school graduates have the writing and comprehension skills of fifth graders. The theories regarding this phenomenon are many: it’s the culture, it’s TV, it’s the Internet, it’s the schools who consistently pass kids who fail, it’s the parents who relinquish their roles as teachers to the system.

This is sad, not only for writers who long to reach an audience, but for potential readers. What are the chances that a writer with fifth grade comprehension can write the next For Whom the Bell Tolls? But let’s face it; I can’t change the world, I can only change myself. That’s why I continue to study, to read, and to improve myself in anyway I can.

Number Two on my list is to stick with it until The End. Many don’t realize how difficult a task this is. Many writers have the best of stories and the best of intentions of finishing. Then Real Life rears its many heads. Our concentration is scattered; our time is divided and subdivided. I have to eat. My family might encounter a crisis or two. I might get lazy. I might take a look at the first 50K words and feel a range of emotions, including dejection, depression, and discouragement . It’s easy to beat yourself up.

My first book took two full years to get to those two words, in part because I am relentless, in part because I thought the story was a good one, and in major part the three C’s – the cajoling, cheering, and cattle prodding of my many writer friends.

This brings me to Number Three on the list. Writers are a smart bunch. What one doesn’t know, another might. In my experience, they like to share, and why not? A good writer friend will slap you upside the head when you need it and pat you on the back when you deserve it – and Twitter your good fortune to their followers.

If you write and you have information, why not pay it forward, pay it backward, or pay it anyway you can?

Recently, I was commiserating with another struggling novelist regarding self-e-pubbing on a major web site. I’d printed out the manual a year ago, and struggled with the concept of formatting my Word document novel for the Kindle loving bunch. I tore out what little hair I had left and consumed enough Advil to rot my liver.

This person pointed me to another writer’s web site, which pretty much deconstructs the e-pub mystery in words I can understand. Genius.

The next week, I forwarded the same link to another writer.

Keeping what knowledge you do have under a bushel basket helps no one.  Build camaraderie and your reference base by spreading the word, because it’s true – you reap what you sow.