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Gracefully Stepping Down

On Thursday night I made what was an incredibly hard decision to make.

I decided to stop striving for 100,000 words this November.

You may have noticed the complete lack of blog posts the last week and a half. If you’re used to seeing me on the forums, you may have noticed my complete absence from those. My time management this November has tanked. Completely and utterly. My word count stuttered, including days where I didn’t write at all. I kept telling myself that there was time, I could catch up, that writing 6,000 words a day every day around a full time job and a social life was perfectly do-able and normal.

I was wrong.

It’s a week to go until the end of November and as of Thursday night, I was 21,000 words behind my personal goal. If I didn’t write yesterday, that would jump up to almost 24,000. The sheer size of that number scared me to the point that I couldn’t write. I felt too pressured to even get the words down. I started avoiding writing. I told myself I had the time off work and I deserved the rest. At 11:30pm on Thursday, I knew I was defeated by my own ambition. I’d written 144 words that day and was more concerned with checking Twitter than trying to get more words down. When I looked at the time I knew I would use to write over the next few days (train journey, write-ins, etc) and worked out what I could expect word count wise to write during those times, I wouldn’t even hit 70,000.

The only way for me to do it would be to throw myself into my novel and push myself until I was out of energy and even then still keep going. And I could reach 100,000 that way. I’d drain myself completely, but I could do it.

But this weekend I’m home visiting my friends and my family ahead of my birthday next Tuesday. I’m here to relax, take a couple of days off work in the process, catch up with my people here in Manchester and generally enjoy myself. I can’t do that if I’m freaking out over my 100,000 word goal. So, I decided in order to celebrate my upcoming birthday, in order to spend quality time with my family and friends, I had to gracefully step down from my target, rather than go down flaming on November 30th when my brain melts.

However! At 8pm on Wednesday evening, I did pass 50,000 words. For the 10th year in a row. And I am epically happy about that. No matter how many NaNos you do, passing that golden number always gives you a rush of adrenaline and a feeling of sheer job and accomplishment.

And even without reaching my insane target, I’ve still had an amazing 10th year of NaNoWriMo. I’ve joined a whole new region, continued to ML, reached 50K with a full time job and without taking time off to hit that mark, and made some great new friends. There are definitely worse ways to spend your 10th year of NaNoWriMo! And as I finish writing this post which will go live in the morning, I’m sat in my old region of Manchester, surrounded by old friends and new faces, discussing dressing one of the current MLs as Rudolph so he can pull someone around an ice-rink in a sleigh.

It’s been a brilliant year overall.

But d’y’know what?

I may try for 100,000 again next year.

Because ultimately, the madness that NaNoWriMo creates inside you never really goes away.

Embrace Your Inner Rebel

As I float about the various NaNo groups I’m an active member of on Facebook (four, if you include the official group) and haunt the forums, I see the same sort of question come up time and time again.

“Can I write [insert type of writing here]?”

There’s a myth that goes around the NaNo-dom that you MUST be writing 50,000 words of ONE novel and one novel only during November. That you should finish said novel by November 30th, no matter what word count (as long as it’s over 50,000) you end up with.

Well, I say a ‘myth’… that kinda is in the NaNoWriMo rules:

The rules state that, to be an official NaNoWriMo winner, you must…

  • Write a 50,000-word (or longer!) novel, between November 1 and November 30.
  • Start from scratch. None of your own previously written prose can be included in your NaNoWriMo draft.
  • Write a novel. We define a novel as a lengthy work of fiction. If you consider the book you’re writing a novel, we consider it a novel too!

HOWEVER! There is another way!

Anyone who doesn’t follow the official rules of NaNoWriMo can still be a Wrimo, can still take part and, gosh darn it if they can’t still be a winner as well! How? Easy.

Rebel.

Rebelling has probably been around almost as long as NaNo has. Not everyone wants to write a fictional novel. What about a non-fiction piece? Or fanfiction? What about a bunch of short stories? Or poetry?

And what happens if you’ve already started The Masterpiece novel when November rolls around and you don’t want to take a break from the flow to write something you may never look at again during November just for the sake of following the rules?

Rebel.

Don’t worry if you’re finding yourself in a position that doesn’t seem to be reflected in the post of those around you. Don’t feel pressured into writing a 50,000 word fiction novel if you really don’t want to do it. There are people who rebel year after year. There’s even a section of the forum for Rebels to come together and discuss their Rebel-y-ness aware from the potential glares of the traditional NaNoists. If anyone has a problem with what you’re doing, that’s only going to add stress to their November.

I have seen, more than makes me happy, people ask if they can write two stories in November, totaling at 50,000 words and replies saying ‘no, it must be one novel at 50,000’. And yes, technically, it should be, but if someone wants to be a short story writer or finds the idea of diving into a full length novel a bit daunting, then let them using NaNoWriMo to get their stories out without feeling like they’re the bit of fuzz you get stuck to your shoe after peeling a sticker off, or worse, make them feel like they’re not welcome to the community.

D’y’know what? Rebels are just as much as part of the community as anybody. They have the same goal, the same problems, the same low moments, the same high moments as everyone who enters into NaNoWriMo.

There’s a debate year after year about this: should Rebels “win”? Well, why not? No-one pays to do NaNo, there’s no actual club to be kicked out of and the only prize is self satisfaction. So, if someone wants to write 10 5,000 word short stories, and claim their NaNoWriMo winner’s purple word count bar and certificate, then why can’t they? Nobody can stop them from doing so as there is no way of checking, other than taking someone’s word for it, that they rebelled or not.

So, if you want to sit down and write your memoirs, or a day-to-day diary from the point of view of your pet dog or if you want to write 50,000 words of poetry in 30 days, by the love of the Gods go for it! (Hey, if Milton can write a 80,000 word poem over 10 books, why can’t you?)

I rebelled once. Last year, in fact. And, y’know what? I was an ML. *cheeky grin*

Embrace your inner rebel. NaNoWriMo is your November. Do whatever on Earth you want with it.

Drumroll Please!

A huge thank you to everyone who entered my competition last week! My little plot bunny is very excited to be going to a brand new home very soon, especially as it’s just in time for NaNo 2012!

It was lovely to read all your responses and to see what different people pick as their favourite thing they’ve written. I saw favourites range from soon to be published novels, to short-stories, to works-in-progress, from very recent works to something written a few years ago. I find it really interesting how different we are as writers and how it’s not necessarily the newest thing written which is your favourite!

To answer my own question, I think the favourite thing I’ve written is my 2006 NaNo. Don’t get me wrong, I love We All Fall Down, but Phoenix Rising has always had a special place in my heart.

But you’re not here for all that are you? No, you’re here for the announcement of the winner!

*drumroll*

First, I wrote everyone’s names on pieces of paper. If you had multiple entries, you got two pieces of paper!

Then, I folded up the pieces of paper and put them in my hat. (Told you I had a hat.)

I shook up the hat and actually felt nervous! I’ve never drawn a competition before! I was excited to see who  was going to win. I ended up shaking the hat for a good minute so I could enjoy the nervous excited feeling. Then I delved my hand in…

…and withdrew a name!

CONGRATULATIONS CATHERINE LUMB! You are my first competition winner! *balloons fall from the ceiling and glitter bursts out from nowhere whilst cheers fill the blog* Hurrah!

Cat, to claim your prize, please email me on lemonparade27 [at] ymail [dot] com with your full name and address and I will mail out the bunny asap.

And that’s all folks! I hope you keep reading, especially as we plunge towards November. You guys are really awesome people.

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