How My Obsession Began, Or “Another Endorsement of NaNoWriMo”

I first heard of NaNoWriMo halfway through November of 2007. I can’t recall exactly how I heard of it; I think I might have been surfing through some blogs on GreatestJournal (the site would tank a month later). At first glance, NaNo seemed like a cool idea. I remember thinking to myself that I should have found out about this a few years ago, probably back in 2005. But since I found out about it halfway through November, I didn’t want to jump into the game late. Plus, I didn’t have any new ideas. I think I was working on “Restless” at the time, and more than likely on some draft of XIII, too.

I forgot about NaNoWriMo until October 25, 2008. I remember that specific date because it was when the character Rachel first came into my head, told me her name, and proceeded to rule my fictional universe. That day, I also came up with the opening scene for ONAN. (That title came from something in a Walt Whitman poem that one of my professors was obsessed with, and Onan is also a biblical character, which fit well with my pet theme.) Needless to say, ONAN (the story) had a lot of sex in it. And I realized a year later that ONAN is “NaNo” spelled backward. Total coincidence, I swear.

After coming up with that idea, I remembered that NaNoWriMo existed. I only had about 6 days or so to plan my story, and I don’t really recall how I planned it. I was just excited because I had a new idea and there was an event that catered to crazy people like me who actually wanted to spend time in front of a keyboard, banging their heads against the desk in times of frustration with stubborn characters and immobile plots.

ONAN was the worst thing I ever wrote. The absolute worst. Every time I read the first draft, I cringe. (I think I say that about every first draft.) But I had fun writing it, I met the 50,000 word count goal, and it let me get that particular idea out of my head. I remember walking to class and coming up with some epic idea that I could put into the story, so as soon as I got into class, I’d start writing something down on scrap paper. It was joyous, and that’s how writing should be.

The point of this whole anecdote is that NaNoWriMo is a lot of fun. You’re not going to write an instant masterpiece, though. On the contrary, what you spit out is going to take a lot of time, patience, and revisions. But if you have a burning story idea, and you keep telling yourself you’re going to write it someday, do yourself a favor and just write it now! NaNoWriMo is just around the corner…

10 thoughts on “How My Obsession Began, Or “Another Endorsement of NaNoWriMo”

  1. It’s true that the NaNo will need revisions, but that’s true of any draft! I’m getting excited for November. Excellent endorsement!

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  2. Glad to hear you are self-competing again this year. (You ARE, aren’t you?)
    This will be my 11th NaNoWriMo (and 10th win). ))

    You’re right, of course, one doesn’t write a masterpiece in 30 days. On the other hand, even a terrible first draft can be edited into a working ms. If you do a search on the NaNo site you’ll find a list of published (some best-selling) books that were started as NaNovels.

    I’m excited about this year. I’ll be pushing the rules around a little, but my goal is to finish about 120k words during November. And, who knows? Maybe… maybe

    Best of luck!

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  3. Completely agree! We shouldn’t have illusions about NaNo… it isn’t going to give rise to a masterpiece in one month… but it’s such a good motivator. Do you also find yourself kind of addicted to all the support? I kind of wish there was a way to get that much commiseration and joyous celebration year-round.

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  4. One of my writing slogans is “honor your obsessions.” What drives you, what gets you excited — too many people get pulled away from that by people who don’t get it (whatever “it” might be).

    I’m reading a book now where the writer said the minute she thought of the main characters she knew she had to write about them. That’s what I want to read, and it applies to how we write as much as it does to what we write about.

    NaNo isn’t my thing, but I always cheer for those who do it.

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  5. Your enthusiasm is telling, Maggie! Today, I was writing a short story for a contest and thought, “I am never as happy as when composing at the keyboard.” 😀

    Best of luck and have a blast!

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  6. I’m finally attempting NaNo after years of telling myself to do so.

    Good luck to all those participating, be they veterans like yourself, Maggie, or newbies like me!

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