It's the screaming time again, when I sequester myself for a month and desperately make bad words come out of my hands.
This National Novel Writing Month I'm trying something new which I'm calling "living like a Spartan" or perhaps "like an adult with a good sense of time management."
My rules are to be in bed by 11:30 (if I want to read, or need to write more to hit my goal I can do it from bed, but no dicking around online or playing games or watching TV allowed), and up before 7:00 to get a thousand words in before work.
It's only day 4 but so far, so good.
I've been doing NaNo since I was in high school and for a long time I thought I had gotten nothing out of it but fun times with friends who write. Neither of my published books were written during NaNo. And the books I did write with the month-long constraint... woof.
But as I tried to convince everyone I knew to join me on the NaNo journey this year, I realized that NaNo fundamentally changed how I approach writing, and more than anything, why I think it's a great idea to start young.
I've written a lot of bad books
The first time I did a writing month was actually JuNoWriMo, when I was about sixteen years old. Back then I was, against all odds, really fucking good at writing 50K in a month and let's be real, it was because it was a bad 50K. I wrote garbage that year. I wrote garbage for NaNo when I was 17. I wrote garbage with my friends, and I wrote slightly less-garbagey but still pretty garbage in sophomore year of college.
But all those reams of garbage that I wrote made me think of writing as tangible work, rather than a mystical art.
Doing NaNo changed my relationship towards word counts, and towards completing projects. And it taught me my strengths and weaknesses as a writer. And I started doing it when I was so dang young that I tricked myself into learning life lessons, what the hell.
Word counts aren't scary
I've failed NaNo more times than I've won. But those early NaNos, when I was so young and foolish and cavalier about words that I actually won fixed some things in my brain.
50,000 words became not a scary number. When submission calls I was looking at wanted books of 50,000 or more, I knew I could hit that number.
Even though I would never in my life let any of my early NaNo projects be seen by living human eyes, it was a weight off to know that the sheer volume of words was possible. That I had done it, and could do it again.
I knew I was bad at endings
Here's the other thing about my early NaNo projects: I finished 50K, but I never finished a book.
I was terrible at plot arcs; I would imagine most sixteen-year-olds writing their first book are. I'd estimate that I was around 2/3 of the way through the plot each time I got to 50K, but like, imagine the plot arc is less of a parabola and more of a pancake.
It's because I was bad at plotting, and definitely bad at villains (these stories tended to have Villains), and definitely because I was bad at endings.
I'm really fucking bad at endings.
And again, it's good to know that. Just like I knew I could make 50,000 words appear, I knew that none of those words would be a decent ending.
In a better world where I'm a better person, this means I know to take extra time during the planning process to iron out an ending and make sure my conflicts are actually leading somewhere.