Join us as Edmond Manning goes Outside the Margins.
“National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.” – NaNo’s website
I participated this year. Well, sort of.
I decided to write the 50,000 words in the month of November, but I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t provide updates on Facebook or share progress I had made on my goals. Other friends did so and I watched their progress happily, cheering them or just adding “likes,” to show my passive support.
A Facebook friend asked if I was participating in NaNo and I gave some slippery, evasive answer which was not no, but not quite yes.
Why my odd secrecy?
I guess it’s about the numbers.
I have caught myself scoffing at writers who post something to the effect of, “I wrote 6,000 words today. It was a good writing day.” Really? Putting 6,000 words on the electronic page makes it a good writing day? What about quality? What about creative processing? What if a writer spent three hours mentally working through a brilliant idea or character insight and only wrote 1,500 words? Doesn’t that seem like you should get equal weight with the 6,000 word brag?
I would sometimes grumble my discontent at the number posters.
I had a great writing day a few weeks ago. What made the day fantastic was how in ‘the flow,’ I felt for most of the writing. I was proud at allowing myself to stay in that blessed space, to soak in it, and keep writing. I spent most of the day in front of the computer and while that is neither amazing or commendable, the fact that I gushed an enthusiastic flow of words, twisting and teasing them into sentences that splashed me, excited me, well, it made me feel like I surfed a cold California wave all the way to shore and stepped off right next to a hot dog stand.
(In my imagination, California surfers celebrate riding a great wave by grabbing a hot dog, bro, after they get back to shore. Stepping off your longboard right at the sand in front of the hot dog shack is just that much cooler.)
On that amazing writing day, when I posted my joy to Facebook, I ended up communicating how many words I wrote: 7,260. I was proud of myself.
And a hypocrite.
Hadn’t I scoffed at numbers-posters?
Wasn’t I one right now?
Yes, but it’s different, I argued with myself. I’m celebrating riding that wave and they’re celebrating a number. Okay, I said, but who is to say they aren’t also celebrating their own victories just like you?
It’s humbling when you finally realize you’re just like everyone else and the thing you didn’t care for in others is so deeply embedded in you that you’re practically twins.
Okay, so the numbers matter. Somehow, the words written in a day correlate to riding that wave, that love of words and creating something beautiful.
A writer I respect, Lori Gallagher Witt, posted a few months ago on Facebook her hurt feelings that people assume her writing is poor quality because she writes fast. Considering Lori had two books as finalists in the 2013 Lambda Literary Awards last year, I would argue she has been acknowledged twice over as someone who produces quality.
Her heartfelt post made me open up and consider my own internal micro-prejudices on this topic. I admitted to her that I can be snobby about word count and thanked her for pointing it out to me. Beyond being a good writer, she’s also a good person, though I would never give her the satisfaction of saying that aloud.
I wonder if my word count snobbery masks professional jealousy?
I know writers who can churn out four or five books a year. I can’t. Am I jealous of that ability? You bet. If I could crank out a book in less time at the level of quality that makes me happy, would I? Sure! Who wouldn’t?
However, I take the time it takes to write because that’s the time it takes.
(Kind of a mental tongue twister there.)
My point is, to further push on my prejudice about authors who write fast, I decided to participate in this year’s NaNo, daring myself to push for 50,000 words in one month.
Could I make the goal?
Would my word count snobbery get in the way?
Normally, you don’t have to force me to sit in front of the computer and contemplate characters and what they might say. But to achieve 50,000 words, I had to set aside a goodly amount of free nights and then I couldn’t use “there’s a new Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on Hulu” as an excuse to blow off a whole night of writing.
I still wanted to write a great story. But in November, I paid attention to the word count. Paid attention to how close I was to meeting my goal throughout the month.
But why the secrecy?
Was I ashamed I was counting words, just like others do?
Was I worried I wouldn’t meet the goal and then have to admit public defeat?
Or am I just a private person?
Maybe all of the above.
I think the thing I have a hard time admitting to myself is that we writers are cut from the same cloth. We love an afternoon or evening surfing those luscious words, riding the crest of enthusiasm, feeling the spray of unexpected adventures and plot twists in our faces like ocean droplets, refreshing, stinging, maddening. We don’t always know how to measure that surf, so we say things like, “I wrote for six hours.” Or “I wrote 6,000 words.” It’s the best we have to communicate our love for words, or love for surfing.
And we don’t have to all love the same thing. Some writers love writing 6,000 words because they love writing 6,000 words. I have to curb my professional jealousy and let other writers be good at the things they’re good at it.
We can all meet at the hot dog stand and proudly share our stories.
And for the record, in November, I wrote 51,225 words.
I did it.
~ Edmond Manning
About Edmond Manning
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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