It is November, which means two major things in my world. Firstly, it’s Nanowrimo, which is a big deal when you’re doing a masters program in creative writing. It’s sort of obligatory to have some sort of project going. Creative writing is the point of all of this, isn’t it?
It also means that it’s coming up on end of term and that big term paper that I didn’t exactly bother to work on in September and October, since there was still time, right?
So this November, I have been spending every waking moment writing, but I have somehow managed to pull both of them off. In some ways, I found this Nanowrimo the easiest of them. I’ve won Nanowrimo three previous times by the slow slog, dutifully writing my 1,667 words every single day. This time I didn’t have that luxury, since I had to drop it for a full week while I put together the first draft of my term paper. Instead, I spent most of the month playing catch-up for the week I lost, doing word sprints of 2,000 – 4,000 words instead. I was surprised to find out that I really loved the longer writing sessions and targets and found that the writing I was doing was more productive, because I could get deeper into my thought process over the frame of 3,000 words than I could over 1,667 words per day. I wrote entire scenes at a time, instead of stopping in the middle because I’d reached a word quota and had other things to do with my day.
In part, I know it went easier because I have gotten into the habit of writing fiction every day, so writing is just easier than it used to be. Like anything else that you do all the time, it gets easier when you practice. What I love most about Nanowrimo is the deadline — when you have only so much time to write so many words, it forces you to confront any thorny problems that you’re having with your story right away, instead of letting you set it aside. Once set aside, a story problem actually becomes so much harder to solve — though certainly I have written myself into a few corners because of Nanowrimo’s tight deadlines. This year I didn’t trap myself — I have a 50,000 word story that has flowed organically and logically and, I hope, has some truthiness in it. We’ll see. It’s not finished yet — there’s at least another 50,000 words to go before it’s as fully fleshed out as my brain thinks it ought to be, but it’s well on its way to being something better.
The semester finishes up in another two weeks, which gives me about a month to work on the ending of the story before the next semester begins. Another reason to look forward to the end of the semester. I have to admit that the class I’m taking this semester, Literary Criticism, isn’t really doing much for me. It’s teaching me how to write good academic papers so that I’ll be able to write better analysis papers for the rest of the program and take that on to a PhD program, which would be the next step for all the people that are doing this program because they’re educators. Oookay…but I’m in the program to write fiction, so even though I understand that it’s not, it feels like a giant waste of time.
After all, it is Nanowrimo season. Time is at an essence, because I’m trying to make lots of it to write fiction, which is the point of this program to begin with. I am not necessarily the most patient person, but I’m trying to learn from it all.