NaNoWriMo: 50,357

Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

I did it. I crossed the finish line into the vaulted annals of NaNoWriMo history. I was granted access into the e-sacred fellowship of those who have attempted NaNoWriMo, and succeeded.

I am glad that I did it. For a few reasons. One is that banging out 50k words in a month is a lofty goal. I was glad I followed through on it and didn’t squander the chance to do something like this. And in the end, surprisingly, I am happy with what I wrote. Or at least the story I am trying to tell. Scrapping my original outline 2 or 3 days before I began seemed a little risky. Usually I don’t use outlines when I write, but I also usually am not attempting to write a novel in a month.

The outline-less method worked for me. It allowed me to let the story unravel naturally, instead of me trying to really control and corral it. My mom asked every time I talked to her if I knew how I was going to end it. I didn’t. It seemed like the only possible liability for me flying without a gameplan. I didn’t quite know where I was headed. But, in typical Malo fashion, that was down the road and not here and now and I would deal with that bridge if/when I came to it.

I found that I needed to write with headphones on. There could be an accompanying soundtrack to what I wrote, most of what I listened to were the same four albums on repeat. (Modest Mouse was what I finished to. Odd, because the rest of what I listened to was almost exclusively female vocalists.) I didn’t have a hard goal when I wrote, just to try and stay about on course. At first I was way ahead, then I slipped to right on target, then I fell behind. So somedays I was able to do a thousand words while other days I knocked out around 4k.

Here is a chart of my daily progress:

Some people say that 40k is their wall. Mine happened after 30,000. To get to that point I was sort of on auto-pilot. I could write, in chunks, say I was writing and show the proof, but wasn’t quite sure I had enough gas in the tank or story to get me through to the end. I knew hitting 40k was really my goal because there was no way I would get to writing 40,000 words and not hit the goal, even if it was the day before. Shit, I wrote almost 9,000 words the first night so I had shown myself I was capable of doing it. But getting from 30,000 to 40,000 was a long, upward battle.

So the burning question on your mind I am sure is, But how did he do it?
The answer: I kept writing. Put paper to pen/fingers to keyboard and continued to pound out words. There is a line in the Fourth Step which states:

“The way to write an inventory is to write it! Thinking about an inventory, talking about it, theorizing about the inventory will not get it written. We sit down with a notebook, ask for guidance, pick up our pen and start writing. Anything we think about is inventory material. When we realize how little we have to lose, and how much we have to gain, we begin this step.”

As usual, I tried to take what I learned there and apply it here. And as is usually the case when I attempt to that, it worked.

I have to say the message boards were very helpful. Both for suggestions and support. I was pleasantly surprised. What I thought was great was the people who had finished sort of hung out on the boards encouraging the people ho were struggling. I am not sure how, but again, NaNoWriMo fosters a great sense of community. It was impressive. Made me want to finish early next year to do the same. It’s probably because after trying to write so many words in such a short time, most by far with a far more hectic and trying schedule than I, is that there is sort of a camaraderie of people who were in a (word) war and lived to tell about it.

So have I written a novel? Meh, not so much. I look at it somewhere between writing a long detailed draft of a novel and having written the first, roughest of drafts of a novel. I made the decision early on that the only wasy I was going to be able to do this was to suspend my usual technique of self-editing as I went along. I had to. I had little concern for punctuation, grammar, consistency and obvious flaws. I just burned through it in favor of the overall story and making progress. I was in bed the other night reading the Paris Review interview with John Steinbeck and came across this quote:

Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.

So that is what I did. So now I have a story that is 99% written. I am not sure if I would attempt to write a novel again for a while, but I like this enough to try and go back and revise and edit it to see where it might go. I appreciate the support of people who encourage me to try and get it published. Granted, they have not read it so they don’t even know if it is good, but I do appreciate greatly the people that support me. I am not even sure if publication is my goal, but we will see. I know it needs a major, major overhaul and refinement. The nice thing about not chasing publication is that I don’t feel like I am chasing something desperately. I can take my time to revise it and be as thorough as possible in that process. Plus, I know that the publishing industry has taken similar hits as the magazine industry and I am not sure how excited I am to get back in that arena.

So who knows where we go from here. I know it is a process with several steps. I have a ton of notes about revisions, so I need to go through and make it readable first, then break it down into chapters, start with the notes I already have and then my plan is to attack it chapter by chapter. Like most things, the idea of editing a novel is daunting. The idea of editing a chapter seems manageable. Attacking the publishing industry is far, far down the road. But as someone who started their own magazine and got it to 5ok an issue and distributed in major retail chains across the country, anything is possible.

Who knows, you might find yourself reading a final draft and me seeking your input. Or you could see something I created in your local bookstore. Again. Just on a different shelf.

We will see.