For those few latecomers who don't know, Nano is short for NanoWriMo, which is in turn short for National Novel Writer's Month. It's a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.
November is a disastrous month for Nano, no matter how you look at it. You can't sneak away from Thanksgiving Dinner to spend some quality time with your keyboard while various family members are waiting for you to hack edible pieces off of the turkey. That whole four-day long-weekend stretch is just so much wasted time, when it comes to writing, at least (and in all honesty, I wouldn't have it any other way; any writing plan for November needs to exclude those days right off the bat). Beyond that, we have had a car die in the month of November practically every year. There will always be plenty of easy excuses to NOT write.
I have tried, and failed, to reach my Nano goal for six years running.
The closest I've managed was two years ago, when I actually reached 45,000 words on November 30th, and the end of my story.
Last year was one of my worst; I don't think I reached 10,000 words.
What's the excuse for not reaching the end? Time, of course. There isn't enough. There's never enough.
...and that's not a good enough excuse not to write.
How did I reach that 45,000 word mark? By carving time out of the day by any means necessary. I was actually lucky; the last week of November, my contract job was winding down, and there were long dead stretches waiting for the phone to ring at a temporary tech-support position. Those stretches were perfect for opening Wordpad and scribbling down a few sentences at a time.
When the car died, I lost most of two weeks from work. One might think that those two weeks would be perfect for getting ahead of the game...after all, this job came equipped with a near two-hour commute each way, and just removing that time-killer from the day should have given me enough time to reach my 50k goal. Unfortunately, the stress of not getting paid was more than enough to drive all thoughts of Nano from my brain. I literally did not write a word for two weeks, and then crammed nearly 20k of Nano into the last week of November.
Yes. I wrote twenty thousand words in a week.
I can't say I'm proud of the quality of all of those words (though the attack by the zombie dragon was a lot of fun; you can read it here.). There are huge chunks of that story that need to be erased from the space-time continuum and the entire buildup to the final fight with the bad guy needs to be re-thought, re-plotted, and completely re-vamped...or the story will be re-viled.
Even when it seems like there's no time...even when life seems to be totally and completely spiralling out of control, with job threatened, payroll tight, vehicles collapsing in rusted wrecks by the roadside, and all manner of Otogu disasters coming between me and my keyboard...
...I can still find the time to write twenty thousand words in a week. It might mean going three nights in a row without sleep. It might mean blowing my lunch hour (like I'm doing writing this column). It might mean stressing the understanding and support from She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed ("I'll have that fixed in a little while, babe...just let me get to the end of this next chapter!").
I have proven to myself that I can write twenty thousand words in a week. I've shown that even with a two hour commute, and everything that life could throw at me in a single month, I still managed to come within a scant five thousand words of my goal.
That's my take-away lesson from Nano. Even when there's no time...there still is some. I just need to find it.
Allan Davis is a writer, photographer, and database programmer hailing from the urban wilderness that is Nebraska, and who is quite willing to waste perfectly good writing time on quality time with six kids.
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