Starting a month of literary abandon

Halloween ended with its usual pomp and circumstance. I’m sure people went to parties, haunted houses, or even went trick or treating. I wouldn’t know. I was at work. My big Halloween plans consisted of shelving books until 9 p.m. and then going home and waiting for November 1 to finally come. I had a couple friends over that night, all three of us gearing up to take on the same courageous endeavor in November: writing a novel.

Finally, the clock struck midnight, laptops were opened, and the first words of 50,000 appeared on the brightly lit screen. This is my favorite part of the month. It’s watching months’ worth of preparation, endless characterization sheets, plot diagrams, and anticipation finally take shape. It’s the beginning of my novel, and though it may be rushed, overflowing with grammatical errors, have a weird flow, and be comprised of disjointed sentences, I still think it’s pretty great.

My friends and I decided to start the month off with a word sprint. At midnight, we set a timer for fifteen minutes, put fingers to keys, and started typing as fast and furious as we possibly could. The goal is to write more words than anybody else in the set time. The writer is supposed to transfer the endless flow of thought from mind to page, and forbidden to pause for anything. It is for that very reason that the first 500 words of my novel are comprised mostly of sentences along the lines of “And then she did the thing with the thing and tried to avoid the thing.”

But that’s okay. Sentences like that are what NaNoWriMo was created for. It’s called a month of literary abandon for a reason; future authors are not allowed to care about their inner editors. All the words that are written during November are part of the first draft, and first drafts are supposed to suck. They’re full of mistakes in grammar, in sentence structure, and plot holes. Characters in first drafts will sometimes fall flat, they will do predictable things, and they give some uninteresting dialogue. First drafts have to be trimmed down, gussied up, nipped at, and wrapped in a big, pretty bow, before they can really be called a novel.

Every word that I write in November is subject to change. It’s been a struggle to quiet my inner editor and tell her, “It’s okay that our main character is the poster child for the cliched loner/bookworm trope, we’ll fix that in December.” and, “Don’t worry about that plot hole, we’ll try to work that out by the end.” I’ll be the first to admit that my story isn’t that great right now, but I’ll fight to say it has all the potential in the world to be great. I love my plot and I think my characters are incredibly interesting people. December is going to be a busy month as I continue the battle to write a novel, editing my way through some, admittedly, poor writing.

For now, I’m going to just keep writing. It’s been quite a struggle so far, as I’m already 4000 words behind where I need to be at this point. I’ve had a day or two where I lost all momentum and almost gave up completely, but I think the reward at the end of the month will be worth it. Just being able to say I wrote a novel, an exceedingly flawed novel, but a novel nevertheless, will be enough.