by Brian Thornton
For those of you who in the writing community who have been living under a rock, November is "National Write a Novel Month." Who declared it such? I have no idea. Someone did, and it stuck.
So every year tens of thousands of people- including several friends of mine sharpen up their metaphorical pencils and go to work, writing furiously, in an attempt to get an entire novel down in the days between November 1st and 31st.
My response to this notion?
Have fun with that.
Maybe it works for some people, but the idea of writing a complete first draft during a month with not one, but two big holidays (sorry folks, I'm a veteran, from a family of veterans, it's a big deal in my house), a full-time day gig, a marriage/mortgage/one year-old to spend time/effort on, holds zero appeal whatever to me. What's more, it held the same level of appeal back when I wasa kidless, single apartment dweller.
The irony of this is if you asked my wife about my work habits, she'd likely tell you I work better under a deadline. She's seen time and again how, when faced with a due date on one of my writing projects, I will pump out content at a rate that she finds truly impressive.
There's a difference, though. One BIG difference.
Put bluntly, my deadlines invariably involve dollar signs.
To be honest, it all comes down to time. I have a finite amount of it. Now moreso than ever. As a result, it's tough to sit down and bang away at something for the hours on end over a month's time required to turn out a draft of a novel. This is not say I can't turn out product, when it comes to fiction, I have a rough time doing it in assembly line fashion. Some folks can do that, and God bless them. For me it's a short-coming. When I'm writing fiction, I have to put a ridiculous amount of thought into it before I even pick up my (metaphorical) pen.
Back before I got married, I entered into a devil's bargain with a nonfiction publisher that had already published several of my books. These guys always wanted the turnaround on their content yesterday, and they didn't want to have to shell out a whole lot for it. I knew this going in.
At the time I was also wrapping up an editing project, where I'd collected and edited some inspiring nonfiction stories. I was working for the same press, with the same editor I'd worked with on my previous books. She knew how I worked, and that she didn't need to micromanage me or hold my hand while I generated content for her. We worked well together.
This new project involved working with a brand-new editor, who had no idea how I worked, and wasn't especially interested in just having the end result of my efforts just miraculously appear on her desk by deadline date. As I said, she was new, and eager to prove herself.
You can probably see where I'm going with this, so I'll just cut to the chase.
The long and the short of it was that after this new editor started up a pissing match with my original editor over my 25%/50%/75% due dates, I wound up completing the first book exactly eight weeks before the TWO new books I had agreed to write for the difficult-to-work-with new editor were due.
These were children's books, with an intended length of 40,000 words apiece. That's 10,000 words per week, folks.
Oh, and by the way, my day gig is teaching. And this eight week period started on September 1.
In other words, eight weeks of every waking moment not working my day gig pretty much consumed in NaNoWriMo on steroids.
Somehow I managed to complete the contract. Miraculously both books are still in print to this day, years later. The in-over-her-head editor who caused me so many headaches during this initial back-and-forth was eventually directed by her boss to cc her on all further communication with me about this matter. I won't go into it any further than that, other than to say she is no longer with that publisher, and hasn't been for some time.
So, NaNoWriMo? No thanks. Been there, done that.
And at least I got paid for my trouble!