I started doing NaNo in 2007, but after a few years of trying it, I gave up on the concept. Although the format had encouraged me to write the 50,000 words that they deemed made me a “novelist”, I’d never ended up with anything I would have considered to be an actual novel — I had drafts, words, and ideas, but the press to write 1,667 words per day, every day, without fail — or to at least average that pace over time — often meant that the pace of writing outstripped the pace of thinking, planning, and actually getting everything ready. Instead of letting something simmer, and allowing the best idea to come to me, I would run with the first idea that felt like it could get the story to move.
This often ended up with a story that died.
After a couple of years off, though, I picked it up again. In 2012, I used NaNo (and this was rebellion at the time, though not any more) to continue a draft I’d been working on, and then finished it off in the couple of weeks afterwards, to have a roughly 90,000 word draft novel. I decided not to pursue that draft further, in the end, as I felt that the ideas had been undermined by a flippant style, and that I could do much better after a rethink — but it was satisfying, at least, to take a novel-length project to its conclusion.
So, this year, I’m coming at it again — and I think the best way to use NaNo is not as a challenge, per se, but as a kind of starting point. I’ll be picking up the last story I abandoned completely during NaNo — the one from 2009 — and, though I’ll be keeping the prologue because I really like it, the rest has to go. I’ve thought more about the story, where it needs to go, and what it can become, and I’ve answered a lot of questions about the lead characters that I hadn’t known before. That’s given the story far more direction than it used to have, and has greatly reshaped what the story can be.
I have several other novels sidelined, but I needed to pick one to start on–and this is it. For the duration, I’ll have to write a little less short fiction, though — and so, before November, I am working to complete the short-story projects I am currently working on. There are a few of those, and I doubt I’ll finish them all, but hopefully I’ll finish at least a few…