Against my better judgment: NaNoWriMo 2015

I don’t know quite why I’m getting myself into this, except that I don’t know what else to do.

I’ve had an idea for a novel for a couple of months now, but I haven’t done anything with it because I’m still in the middle of writing a different book. When it comes to big novel-length works, one project at a time, I say. But the novel I’m currently writing has been slow going these past several weeks, and I’ve come to wonder if this other novel idea is one of the reasons for that. I find myself thinking my way through the new story as often as I think my way through the book I’m supposed to be writing. Still, as an act of discipline, I have been resisting writing anything on that other, newer novel so I don’t lose sight of the story I’m supposed to be telling.

Until the other morning, when I was thinking about the third book while feeding our cats, and the primary driving force for this third novel suddenly appeared wholly formed and ready to go. If I had not needed to rush out the door and get to the classes I teach, I easily could have sat down to my laptop and typed out the first chapter, maybe some character notes.

Instead, I just scribbled a sentence or two about the direction this book is headed, and then thought about it through all of my commute to school.

And now it seems I’ll be working on it during NaNoWriMo.

To be perfectly honest, I am a bit nervous about this year’s attempt. Not because I’m reticent about the content — in fact, quite the opposite; I’m eager to get those ideas onto paper! — but because of the time constraints I’m facing this year. These last few years, experience has shown me that trying to balance a regular work schedule with this attempt to knock out a 50,000-word draft in 30 days, especially when those 30 days bridge midterm to finals, is incredibly difficult, and I have rarely been successful.

This year also brings the added complications of longer-than-usual commute times for some of my classes, the return of the Wordstock literary festival to Portland in the first week of November, and a contest I have agreed to judge this fall. Where exactly I think I will be able to squeeze in the hours it will take to generate more than 1,600 words each day, I don’t quite know. Already I am giving up a several hours of sleep each week, and I’m not as young as I used to be, so giving up yet more sleep is probably not going to be an option. And unfortunately, I’m already losing some of my pleasure-reading time — in fact, this year in general, I have read much less than I have in years past. My backlog of to-read books in my study is starting to pile dangerously high.

But one of the key points of NaNoWriMo is that it’s only 30 days. Whatever sacrifices I make in pursuit of this first draft, I will only have to make for one month. And then, thanks to my academic schedule, I will have only a couple of weeks left of school to wrap up that work and then I can finish working on that draft during my winter break (or, more likely, sleep for three weeks).

So, here I go, off on another NaNoWriMo. I’ve been successful at this before, after all. So here’s hoping I can pull it off again.

Published by Samuel Snoek-Brown

I write fiction and teach college writing and literature. I'm the author of the story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, the novel Hagridden, and the flash fiction chapbooks Box Cutters and Where There Is Ruin.

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