NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, is an interesting concept: write at least 50,000 words in thirty days or less, specifically during the month of November. With an average of 1,666.667 words per day required to remain on track to meet this goal, it truly is a test of quantity over quality.
One of my resolutions for 2008 was to "win" NaNoWriMo, despite participating for the first time. In this case, a "win" is not being the person with the most words in a given year's competition. Rather, a "win" is simply whether one can actually achieve the goal of 50,000 words in thirty days or less.
Throughout 2008, I gave NaNoWriMo a fair amount of thought. Various story ideas floated through my strange mind. In early October, I finally had a viable idea in mind, and an idea which was perhaps rather unorthodox: writing an anthology of erotica. This would play into my writing style quite nicely: Since I almost always write in stream-of-consciousness format, taking a single idea or image or word or sound and just letting my mind wander as I type, an anthology would allow me to use this same style and not need to worry about trying to stretch any one story to an inordinate length.
However, I figured that this strategy would still require a bit of planning, as I was afraid that without any story ideas ready on November 1, I might not have enough ideas to "win" NaNoWriMo. So throughout October, I maintained an Excel file with various story ideas. By November 1, there were nearly thirty ideas in the file: roughly one idea per day. That was good, so that when I needed to turn to a new idea, I had more than a few already available to me.
The anthology strategy also could be useful in another way, one which is very important given my hectic schedule: I could write on any laptop, at home or otherwise. With a single story, that can also be done, but the chance of having very disjointed segments of the story is in my opinion too great. With an anthology, there does not need to be any coherency between the stories. This allowed me to work on one idea on my main laptop and simultaneously write a separate, unrelated story on the other laptop when I was not at home – I just needed to ensure that all stories ultimately were joined into the same file on the main laptop so that I could validate my "win" at the end of the month.
November 1 arrived, and while most NaNoWriMo participants begin at midnight on November 1, I was not able to do so because my work duties that week had left me thoroughly exhausted. Even though I had significant and very time-consuming work requirements November 1, I still managed to write just over 6,000 words on the opening day of the competition, and they were all for one story which would not be completed until the following day.
After some ten months of build-up and anticipation, NaNoWriMo began quite well: When November 2 drew to a close, I had already written over 13,000 words, which put me at toughly five days ahead of pace and more than 26% to a "win." But November 1 and 2 were a weekend, when I had more time to sit and write. I knew that during a typical week, I would not be able to write as much for one reason: work. Especially with my job, where I am essentially on-call 24/7 and am forced to give up evenings to take care of company business, I knew that I could not expect to write 1,666.667 every weekday, making weekends in general and the opening weekend specifically all the more important. This was especially true for 2008, as November 4 was Election Day in the States, and I knew before the month began that I would not get any writing done for NaNoWriMo that day.
The story ideas in the Excel file became quite important as the month progressed. I had begun the anthology's writing with a few ideas from the Excel file, and then when new stories were needed, I was drawing new ideas out of my head – the Muse was definitely at my side inspiring me and stoking the creativity within me. Once the ideas in my head began to wane, I still had the ideas in the Excel file to keep my fingers moving over the keyboard. This strategy really helped significantly, carrying me through to the midpoint of the month.
But then the Muse decided to take a vacation without me. The third weekend of the month was a struggle. Ideas would not come to me, and none of the story ideas in the Excel file appealed to me. By this point, I was only a few thousand words away from the threshold, and being the middle of the month, I was not too particularly concerned, but after having spent so much time writing in the previous few weeks, suddenly not being able to write anything was incredibly frustrating, especially since writing erotica is one of the main ways I "escape" the pressures and stresses of everyday life. At one point, I even joked in my blog, "I knew I should have collared and leashed the Muse." Oddly enough, that comment must have been inspired by the Muse in a most unusual way, because that gave me the inspiration to keep writing... and according to Microsoft Word 2007, I hit 50,000 words on the nose.
There was still one potential problem, however. Not all word counters count the same. So I knew I had to keep writing, just in case, just to give myself that extra cushion. Over the next few days, I added over 2,600 words with several fragments and short stories.
I still had five days to wait. Unfortunately, the NaNoWriMo Web site will not allow anyone to authenticate a "win" until November 25, but when that significant date finally arrived, I awoke early and ran my anthology through the authentication system.
...and the NaNoWriMo official word counter gave me an additional 78 words.
At last, it was done!!!
I am almost definitely going to participate in NaNoWriMo again in 2009, likely also writing an anthology of erotica. If I do write another anthology, the system I used this year – the Excel file of ideas, getting ahead in the initial days and weekend, and working on multiple laptops on multiple stories – will definitely be useful to be once more. But perhaps most importantly, NaNoWriMo 2008 has inspired me to write more significant stories: I am already planning on spending much of 2009 working on a large BDSM tale, although if necessary, I will be taking the month of November off in favor of a new anthology.