This is the WriYe blog topic for the month of November. I mean let’s face it as a writer November is one of the bigger events on our calendars so it’s a fitting topic. This isn’t about my NaNo exactly. I did a post with my plans, and I did a post talking about how it was going, and I will do another as a retrospective about how it went. This post isn’t any of that – this is about the event itself.
I first took part in 2007. I have a vague memory I might have heard about it before that but it didn’t register, so 2007 when I was 17 was when I got my start. It was a well established event by then and I do still feel a slight envy for people who were around at the beginning (I feel like I’m always late to every party). I don’t believe I have any rambles from that actual time to look back at what I actually thought, but I know what I remember of it now which is the lesson it taught me. I went into that NaNo with a story that had been evolving in my head for years and what I found was I had characters, and they had lives, but there was no actual plot to say ‘hey the story starts here’. I think I got about 20k and then gave up but it was useful due to that lesson learned.
2008 and I managed to scrape 50k with what was technically a complete draft and the lesson from this NaNo was a thrill of typing ‘The End’ really, of having written ‘a novel’. This really is what gave me the taste. Now I have recapped my history with NaNo multiple times and I am not going to go through every single year again.
The point I am trying to make is NaNo = experience. This was my 13th actual attempted November event (I have also done various Camps) and it’s still worth it to me. I remember visiting my Grandma in 2013 I think? And I said I was doing NaNo and it wasn’t going well and her response “haven’t you already done that?” and I was taken aback because my gut reaction said it all.
“NaNo isn’t something that can ever be ‘done’ and finished.”Me
NaNo is very much a ‘get out what you put in’ and ‘take what you need from it’ type of event. Some years I have learned lessons about writing, getting a feel for what works and what doesn’t through practice. The old ‘learn by doing’ applies because unless we put the butt in chair no progress is going to be made. NaNo is ALL about that butt in chair. Other years I have learned lessons about how much I need to plan, or about project/time management. Some years I don’t necessarily learn anything but writing is a lonely gig, and in November a lot of writers come out of the woodwork. That community spirit is a magic all of it’s own, even if I don’t participate much. I haven’t done anything with my region, I haven’t been on the NaNo forums etc. but simply knowing it’s November helps throw the ‘I should be writing’ switch in my brain. I am terrible for focus and having even a slight external deadline is a good push.
It’s the latter that I got out of it this year. After so many events and so many words written, it could be argued I don’t ‘need’ NaNo anymore. I try and write year-round now, it’s not like NaNo is my ‘once a year sojourn to the land of words’. But I still resist the idea that it is unnecessary. I suppose I could say for me it’s become more of a bonus a lot of the time but that isn’t true for many other people.
What does NaNo say? “30 days of literary abandon” – it gives people a gift, permission to turn one day, into today, and write their story. I believe so much in the power of story. It might be naive but I think that by imagining a better world, we help to actually create one. NaNo has literacy programs, like for Young Writers, and they send materials into schools and I believe in that. Give children the gift of stories, and let their imagination grow.
I guess I could say I believe in the ethos behind NaNo. That’s my main thought on NaNo really, that it’s incredibly important due to the power of story. Allowing people that wouldn’t otherwise have their voice heard, to perhaps start a journey to creating something magical which could win hearts and minds, maybe even change the world. Yeah, I know, that’s perhaps unlikely but there was a quote on Leverage: Redemption. I won’t quote it word for word as it’s from the new episodes and #spoilers, but basically it boiled down to individuals can’t tackle the worlds biggest problems. I can’t fix global warming. But what people can do is help others, who can then help others themselves, and then in ten years a lot of steps down the road, people can look back and see that progress has been made and it started with that little thing they did – that one person they helped. We don’t know what seeds we are planting for the future, because that sort of stuff takes time, but those kids that NaNo opens up a world of ‘literary abandon’ too, those seeds could become something amazing.