This year I'm writing a mystery: Into the Woods. My plot revolves around the Internet, the opera, and a whole bunch of bad stuff for my much-beleagured young heroine, Kate Sheffield. The story opens just as Kate is leaving with her husband for their honeymoon in Jamaica, hence the Polyvore set at the top of this post, which is meant to be a small sampling of her trousseau. Within minutes of landing at their destination, though, things for Kate and her new hubby fall apart, badly, and the trouble begins...and what a lot of trouble I have planned for Ms. Kate. Oh, yes, indeedy.
I made the Polyvore set as one of 30 I created as writing prompts for the duration of the month. A writing prompt set up in advance for Nanowrimo is a great way to stay focused and to keep writing when the inspiration starts lagging. However, taking a second look at the set, I think it also says a lot about how I feel about Nanowrimo. To me, November 1 signals the start of a very special writing adventure, one that I have no idea where it will take me. Like Kate, I've got some nicely packed suitcases, my passport to foreign territory, and the bluebird of happiness to guide me on my way. So why would anyone want to to tell me not to go there?
This year I've been amazed to read a number of articles denouncing and criticizing Nanowrimo for all kinds of things, from filling the world with "bad writing" to causing unnecessary stress. I'm not sure what all the fuss is about; I mean, I don't think the Nanowrimo team sends out special agents who knock on your door at 2 AM and demand you sign up or face a firing squad. The people who sign up for Nanowrimo want this experience; we want to force ourselves to write, to be disciplined, to take ourselves and each other seriously as writers. For me, Nanowrimo is one of the most Zen-like opportunities of my writing life. For an entire 30 days, I'm allowed to focus solely on my plot, my characters, my themes and my specific details without worrying whether we have enough milk in the fridge or if the bookshelves need dusting. For 30 days I get to go on my equivalent of the writer's spiritual retreat.
Which leads me to my top 5 reasons why I love Nanowrimo:
- Nanowrimo is like a giant writer's conference where participants get to run the show, not just sit in on lectures or workshops. It's our equivalent of the Olympics or a World Fair: we gather to share a common goal and interest on a grand scale.
- During the rest of the year, I get a lot of ideas for writing. But most of those ideas have to go into a folder labelled "Ideas for Future Writing." November is the month I get to use those ideas.
- For me, writing is rewriting, and the sooner I can get a first draft down on paper, the sooner I can get to the "real writing." If I have a draft ready to revise, I have a real, live WIP to polish and get ready for publication.
- And that means that by participating in Nanowrimo every year, I am assured of having a body of work waiting to be revised. The amount of time between writing a Nanowrimo first draft and the day I sit down and rewrite it is at least a year, usually longer. The longer I am away from a draft, the stronger my editorial eye and the better my sense of detachment.
- Writing covers a lot of bases for me: it's my "hobby" (yes, I'm not ashamed of that word); it's a source of income (I'm a professional, too); it's a source of passionate interest; and it's a spiritual discipline. The "practice of writing" reminds me to be consistent in all areas of my life. Mindful writing equal mindful living and I try to do my best in both.
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