01 November 2014

NaNoWriMo Non-Project Begin

Well, National Novel Writer's Month begins today. On the whole, I've always had mixed feelings about the project. On the one end of the spectrum, some people turn it into a kind of pledge drive that's meant for charity yet they can't stop talking about how the money will help them personally and how big a cut they will take. That's an extreme example, mind, and it's a trend I have seen diminish more recently. I'm never one to shame self-starters, but one of the great things about writing compared to other art forms is that your startup cost is ultimately nothing. If you need financial incentive for that, you're participating in NaNoWriMo for the wrong reason.
There's also the more practical notion that, given you're hammering out in a month what some writers devote years of their lives to, your end result is most likely not going to be of significant quality. Sure, some people can't probably take full advantage of that breakneck pace to draw on a creative wellspring that's otherwise throttled by a lack of a deadline. Time makes people do incredible things.
That brings me to what I've found to be the best approach to NaNoWriMo: it's not about the final product, it's about the process. In short, if you're an especially goal-oriented person, this is not for you. What this event is, more than anything, is a kind of bootcamp for writers. Some people are extremely casual about their writing projects, to the point that a paragraph can be the result of years of off-and-on tinkering. Usually, in those cases, the writing is purely recreational, self-indulgent. I don't begrudge those people; art is for the artist, a sundae, everyone else is whipped cream and a cherry.
The only trouble with the whole casual approach is that it tends to make people lax, and worse, easily-discouraged. Creativity is a fickle thing, fragile even. Too hot, it melts. Too cold, it shatters. Too much time, it gets bored. Too little time, it collapses from the stress. It's rather like a kid, you've got to push and challenge them, but you don't want them feeling pressured.
Basically what I'm saying is that this event is a learning experience in every sense of the term. It's meant to be a kind of litmus test to see just what your creativity is made of, because it's easy to let it slip away from you going the "whenever" route. It's a rigid structure (X number of words/day to meet goal) and a seemingly daunting task, but as the saying goes, you won't know until you try. Sure, you may fail in the end and not produce your novel, but you've either given yourself a great headstart or gotte into a good groove to work on something else.
As for me, I won't be participating per se. I wrote a novella years ago, and it took me from about the start of October to the first weeks of January. During that time, with very few exceptions, I would come home from work in the afternoon and stay at my computer until I went to bed, which was about 6 hours later. Apart from meals and bathroom breaks, I did not get up. Some days I belted out whole chapters, while others I'd struggle to get one sentence to come out right. So, I feel like I paid my debt to the creative work ethic gods on that front.
I do, however, have to small short stories, one I've been working on for a few months off-and-on as part of a Meetup group I started hanging out with, and another I've barely begun taking notes on. I intend to work on both of them this month, up from my one last  year.
The former story, called Echidna, is one I haven't decided on a publication method for. It's erotica, and fairly crass at that. I kind of started that project with the mindset of, "Take it all the way, damn the inhibitions." as well as the naive idea that I'd have it bashed out in a night. That was at least two months ago... dammit.
The latter story, called The Loneliness of Amy Bryce, is a little more sober, ultimately the result of watching the entire series of Twin Peaks (working on snatching up a copy of Fire Walk With Me) while trying my hand at a more Lovecraftian sort of horror. It's less Cthulhu/Kadath and more Terrible Old Man/The Outsider to give a better yardstick of exactly what strata of Lovecraft I'll be exploring.
Best of luck to all of you, whatever your goal may be.

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