The Tale of the NaNo Story
By Cathy C. Hall
Like thousands of writers, I got sucked into National Novel Writing Month, or NaNo, as the veterans call it. And it was one of the best writing tools I ever used.
I don’t know if other writers would call churning out a complete novel in a month a tool. A challenge, a chore, a pain in the butt? Yes, yes, and definitely yes. A tool? Maybe not so much. But for me, NaNo came in pretty handy. Here’s how.
I had an Idea for a story. I couldn’t say I had an Idea for an entire book because I didn’t exactly have an ending. Or much of a middle. But I had an Idea. And this Idea rattled around in my head for months. The months turned into a year, and still, I hadn’t written a single word about the Idea.
Then along came National Novel Writing Month, as it does every year in November. So I pulled on my big girl writing britches and decided that November 2009 would be the NaNo of my Idea. I told all my friends that I was “doing NaNo.” I told my family, too, even though they had no idea what I was talking about. I officially signed up, so there was no going back.
Now, I realize that many writers can go on and on and on and get those 50,000 words easily. But I come from a journalist/copywriting background. I like my writing short (and speculative). Flash fiction was made for me. Writing a novel—Come on. 50,000 words?! —seemed daunting.
Well, more than daunting. Impossible. But as you may recall, I had my big girl writing britches on. And I’d been writing bits and pieces of my Idea for quite a while. Mostly in my head, but still. I had a semi-outline floating around in the gray cells. On November 1st, I slugged through 1600 words. And thought, holy NaNo. I have to do this every day?
Pride dragged me to the desk, forced me to come up with sentence after sentence. I mulled over my Idea in the tub, I created characters watching a high school play, I figured out a plot while slapping food on the table. And in the end, I had a novel. It was 32,560 words but I was okay with that. I mean, honestly, I was thrilled.
Even knowing that only 1723 words were any good. That there were holes bigger than Black Holes in it. That characters sounded alarmingly like the kids from West Side Story. But, by NaNo, I had a manuscript in my hot little hands. I had something I could work on!
I did NaNo because I had an Idea I loved and wanted to develop. NaNo gave me the impetus to take the book out of my head and put it on paper. Now, three years later, after all the revisions, drafts, and rewrites, I think I have a pretty good story.
So if there’s a moral to my NaNo tale, maybe it’s this: Don’t be a tool. If you’re going to go to all the trouble to do NaNo, make that novel worth it!