NaNoWriMo 2014 came to a close on 30 November, but I was lucky enough to reach the goal a couple of days before. Although I don’t know if all of them will make the final cut, I managed to write over 50,000 words of the sequel to the Spirit Within Club. I had discussed at the beginning of the month how a great community can take all its members to places they never dreamed possible. I also reflected on how the internet allows an increasing number of people to be part of thousands of communities they would otherwise not even have access to. I also expressed the hope that the online NaNoWriMo community might trigger insights about the working of online communities in general.
Just like with my previous NaNoWriMo experience in 2008, it was quite enjoyable, to say the least. It was nice to have an objective I knew was being shared by so many others, and felt, in the forums, a sense of encouragement and mutual support. Writing blocks were quickly removed, and plot holes neatly filled by an online community of writers who, for the most part, had never met each other in person. I also loved e-meeting new authors. Should I be in a place where there are other NaNoWriMo-ers, I plan on meeting up with them at least once next year.
I think it is also quite wise that the objective is not to come up necessarily with a last draft publication ready novel, but rather to put your first draft together. I worked on the sequel to the Spirit Within Club. I had prepared an outline prior to November, but realized halfway through the month that while I would be able to write 50,000 words, the book would need a lot of ironing. There are so many concepts packed in the second volume of this series that I found that most of my time taken up by research. How do you deal with the question of justice in the life of an eleven year-old Canadian child? How does a parent discipline one’s son who is misbehaving in a way that is empowering, rather than anger-inducing? How to you deal with an eleven year-old girl’s budding sexuality in a balanced, wise, moderate way? These are some heavy questions that I realized would have to wait a post NaNoWriMo life to answer, because my exponential progress had stalled halfway through the month.
Which brings up the question of how to participate in NaNoWriMo. I know that some fellow participants are most probably not going to make the 50,000 word goal because their writing methodology is not compatible with an initial burst of words that needs editing, sometimes heavy amounts of it. One friend of mine will rework a paragraph until it is perfect before moving on. He has yet to win NaNoWriMo, but he still participates every year and enjoys it very much. I feel he is much wiser than I am, having learned that the journey is much more important than the end result.
At times, I felt that my 2014 experience with NaNoWriMo reflects many lessons that all who have received a higher education have learned. You have to prepare – the month-long writing is not something you can do in a vacuum. You have to prioritize – write the parts you know a lot about, and they will help you write the parts on the topics you don’t know much about. Working with some buddies who can reflect with you enhances the end result. But ultimately, you need to do what is best for you, engaging at a deep level in every aspect of writing your novel.
This year’s experience was completely different from the one I had six years ago, and each were enlightening in a different way. And with my first Bloggiesta experience earlier this year also quite successful (read about it here and here), it brings to mind that perhaps an online community can provide similar loving support as an “in real life” community.
First published on Sahar’s Blog on 29 November 2014