I have decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month again this year. It’s the first time since 2013, when I completed draft #1 of my first novel, that I have begun with the full intention of finishing.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a challenge that many on the interwebs accept in which they write a 50,000-word novel (or 50,000 words of a novel) during the thirty days of November. There’s a website to log your daily word count as well as meet up with local writers in your area and win badges for doing things like “plotting your novel” and “donating money” (NaNoWriMo is a nonprofit organization that relies on participants’ donations, and in turn has created a wealth of resources to support teachers who want their students to participate in NaNoWriMo).
So this year, I am participating. And I am going to win. Winning = 50,000 words.
This time around, though, I’m not going to write a novel. I have been deep in “learning how to write a good short story” mode this fall, and so I will be continuing that theme by writing ten short stories in November.
That is one short story every three days, of 5000 words apiece.
Why am I doing this? Three reasons:
Reason #1: I love a good challenge.
Especially one that is clearly quantifiable, where I know when I have won. NaNoWriMo gives me all of those things. A word count to hit. A deadline to meet. Enough flexibility to let me tweak it to fit my own writing goals.
Which brings me to…
Reason #2: It fits into my writing goals.
All this fall, since moving to Austin, I have been focusing on writing short stories. As a form, I know the least about them (because they aren’t my favorite to read) and I have practiced them the least. So I have devoted this fall to learning how to write them—and I still need more practice. A lot more practice.
Reason #3: What better way to practice than to binge?
But seriously. I’ve been slowly hacking away at the same short story since September. I like it, and the editing process has been extremely helpful (another blog for another time), but it’s just going soooooo slooooowly. I want speed. I want the rush. I’m tired of mastering The Three Blind Mice and want to bang into some Moonlight Sonata or something. Time for the big leagues.
Mixing metaphors aside, writing ten short story drafts in thirty days will be ten times as many drafts as I wrote in October. That means ten times as much practice in writing bad first drafts. Ten times more practice thinking up interesting characters and plausible dilemmas. Most importantly, ten times more practice thinking up good stories and learning how to develop strong plots from those good stories.
Because at the breakneck speed of one short story every three days, if the current story is turning out terribly, I have only three days—at most—until I’m on to something new.