Discover more from The Next Novel
I have never done NaNoWriMo
But I did once draft a novel in 33 days
It was November 20th to December 22nd, 2017.
The conditions of my life were very different then.
I had just left a job where I worked too much and was always stressed for a job where no one emailed me outside the hours of 9 to 5 and I almost never felt stress.
I had given up my commute and was working from home. That, combined with the fact that work was confined to work hours, meant I felt like I suddenly had this gift of a ton of free time, like four to five extra hours per day.1
I was part of a truly special, maybe even once-in-a-lifetime writing group, and this was its most magical season. I couldn’t have asked for better support and encouragement. RIP Rumble Ponies — you were beautiful while you lasted.
I didn’t have a kid! My free time was my own, and for those 33 days I spent all of it running, reading, and writing.2
I loved — and still love — the manuscript that came out of this. It took place where I grew up, in the mid-90s, and so I was writing about a place and time I knew well. It was about climate change and being a weirdo in a small town and bodily autonomy and religion and that very specific era of subdivision construction and tornado season in the Midwest. It had the quality of being drafted very quickly; it was present tense, took place over the course of one day, and was written in a claustrophobically close third person.
The novels I can write today have a different feel — none of the breathless quality that I could achieve with the fast draft approach. And that’s okay. The conditions are not always right for NaNoWriMo.
If you are doing NaNo this year, I am sending you lots of good energy! Do the thing! You got this! And if you, like me, are just trying to find 20 minutes here and there so you can spend the first 15 trying to get the world of the novel back in your head and then write a few sentences, I am also sending you lots of good energy! Do the thing. You got this.
I do think that this effect could only be had by moving from one situation to the other. Had I not experienced the first job, the second job wouldn’t have felt like such a break, such an opportunity, wouldn’t have stood in such stark relief.
Of course I remember it as a more idyllic time than it was. There were stressors, a big one being that we could no longer afford our rent in an apartment we loved, in a neighborhood we loved, and were starting to come to terms with a move, which happened the following spring.