Nanowrimo: Updates on My Rebellion

Yes, another writer posting about Nanowrimo. It’s kind of a thing right now.

Day ten is upon us. If you’ve followed this blog, or my Twitter, you know I took the Nano Rebel route this year. Rebel being someone who uses Nanowrimo, but doesn’t engage in all the official rules of same. To that end, I opted to write 50,000 words worth of short stories this month, as opposed to a novel. I thought I’d share how it’s going so far.

Without a doubt, it’s a different experience. At first I didn’t think it would necessarily feel much different than all of the previous Nanowrimos I’ve taken part in. I guess I should have known better than that, though, since any other time writing short fiction requires a different rhythm than writing a novel. Yet because of the required pace and lack of constant editing that makes Nano what it is, I speculated that 50,000 words for several first drafts would come about in the same fashion as 50,000 words for one long first draft.

My speculation was incorrect.

Allow me to state that as of right now, I am still on pace to “win” Nano this year. I’ve met the daily word quota each day of November so far. Yet unlike Nanowrimos past, I find I’m only getting just to, or just beyond the daily minimum of words. Part of that may be general fatigue, heaven knows. I can’t discount that. However, the nature of the writing is probably a more significant contributor to the “skin of teeth” nature of the first few days.

Set Nano aside for a minute. When you write a novel, you by nature have some exploring to do. Flesh out characters or establish the scene. A novel not only allows for, but in many way requires elaboration. Whether you outline a novel first, or just dive right into one as a so-called “pantser”, the length and purpose of the novel permits a certain degree of delving into the material, especially during the first draft. You can take the long way home.

Short stories, however, by definition, have to get to the point more quickly than a novel. They can be literary, highly descriptive, even wordy, but whatever it is they are designed to do, they have to do it in less time with less information than a novel. Each sentence in a short story carries more influence and power than does that of a novel. That’s fine when you’re writing a short story under normal circumstances. During Nano, however, it means you better have at least some idea of how to get to the story’s meaning from the time you begin. True, you can indeed “pants” your way through a short story, and I have done some of that. Yet even pantsing needs to be somewhat more reigned in under this conditions, I dare say.

As I write short stories for Nano, (I have completed five so far), I have to come up with an arc and resolution several times over, instead of building just one arc and one conclusion, as I do when writing a novel in 30 days. (Even if I don’t finish it, this is the M.O.) S I’m finding there is more pressure to no what a story is doing as i write it, than I do with a novel. And the pressure arrives sooner in the process.

It’s particularly noticeable to me, because in  many cases, I have no specific length I’m shooting for in my short fiction. I’ve not said I will write only 2,000 word stories for Nano. (That would be even more difficult in some ways.) So when I begin a story, I’m not sure how many words I’ll take up. Two of the stories are in fact 5,000 words. Two others were written within just the daily word minimum for Nano. Not knowing how much lies ahead of me before a story is finished adds to the pressure somewhat.

I could of course, just write two long-short stories. I could continue to write a short story and let it go on and on until I got to 50,000 words. It would still qualify as a short story, by many metrics. But what it would not do is accomplish anything different than the previous years I’ve taken the Nanowrimo challenge. At least, that’s how it seems to me. But like I said, I’m not putting limits on the short story word counts. The very next one I write might just be 30,000 words. I doubt it though. I’m certainly not aiming for that.

The challenge is being in a new world with a new set of characters every few days, instead of staying with the same set over the course of a month. In theory, I should be able to just pound out the words each day, no matter what those words are about. Yet I’m finding that it’s not as easy to ignore editing tendencies and content judgement with short stories as it is with a novel. I have a whole new completed product every few days, you see. Good or bad, I have been “finished” five times so far, and each of those stories is now, officially, in second draft territory. I of course am not working on the second drafts yet, but I’m not building toward a first draft this year as I do most years, and that has, I think, given this Nano a different feel to me. More pressure on different creative muscles.

In the end, that, I suppose, is the point of any Nano. From that perspective I’m glad there is a bit of an extra challenge to it this year. I believe I will achieve the word goal as I do each year I do this. But it doesn’t seem like it will be a blow out this time. I’ve had to work harder at it. Just as last year I had to work harder at finishing a whole plot in 30 days. (That was the first time I’d done that.) There was an extra sense of satisfaction last year when I accomplished that new goal. I imagine it will feel extra satisfying this year too when I complete this rebel approach.

That, in the end, is what it’s all about.

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1 Comment

  1. It really does sound exhausting to have to start over with a new set of characters, worlds, and rules every couple of days. It seems like the novelty of it would wear off fairly quickly.

    Don’t feel bad, though! I’ve never yet “won” NaNoWriMo, and I am totally flaking on it this year. Yeah…

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