My Name was Supposed to be Elizabeth Ann

— Stories from the Roads (Not) Taken

For those of you unfamiliar with the challenge, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Beginning every November 1, writers of all ages and abilities set out to write a 50,000 word novel by midnight November 30. 

I planned to participate. I even signed up. I had a project and a schedule in place.

Then I changed my mind.

*****

During spring quarantine, my concentration suffered. I read poems and short articles, but no books. I wrote emails and blog posts, but no fiction. Like Didi and Gogo, I spun in circles awaiting an intervention that never came.

Their quest is called Theater of the Absurd for a reason, and I’m its fan in neither literature nor life. 

What does that have to do with NaNo?

Everything.

As I struggled to create my personal New Normal, I struggled to determine WHY writing non-fiction came so much easier than writing fiction. WHY I struggle with drafting and relish revising.

Two reasons. First, I’ve spent much more time writing non-fiction than fiction. Second, writing non-fiction is a process of manipulating and polishing events that have already happened.

Eureka! That’s my fiction stumbling block. Not DRAFTING–

Figuring out the events that have already happened so I can then manipulate and polish them.

And for me, that takes time. Time and thinking, then writing. Then rewriting, then more time and thinking and rewriting, all the while remembering that, like building a house, building a story requires certain parts be fabricated and placed before others leave the factory. Every writing session, I always begin by rereading and (slightly) tweaking scenes drafted the day prior, even if it just means making marginal notes about necessary changes. I have to. I can’t move forward otherwise.

Which means the NaNo model doesn’t work for me.  Writing on such a stringent timeframe makes my brain cramp.

Uh unh.

It doesn’t mean I won’t be writing every day this month. I will be.

Nor does it mean I won’t start writing that novel. I already have a very ugly draft.

It means I needn’t feel guilty about not meeting the NaNo challenge. Every writer needs to recognize and celebrate her own process, and stepping away from NaNo means stepping toward a writing month that works for me.

And I’m more than okay with that.

*****

What have you learned about your writing during quarantine? I’d love to hear it! Share your comments below.

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