Okay, I know I said “loophole,” but the solution I’m about to address isn’t really in the fine print. Anyone who cares to know what it is can just go to NaNoWriMo.org and read their FAQ. (Thank goodness for an organization that gives clear and concise answers.)
So what is this “loophole” that I’ve discovered, and what does it address? Well, excuse me if I digress by way of explaining…
Readers who have stuck with me since the beginning know that in 2012, I thought people were crazy to participate in NaNoWriMo (writing a 50,000-word novel from scratch, all in the month of November). Then in 2013, I had a change of heart. Or, that is, mere days (like two) before November, a story idea popped into my head, and I realized that I could wait a couple days to write and hope that magic would follow.
It did, and I am glad to say that it’s been the most fun I’ve ever had writing. Not only did I finish my novel, but I’ve edited it once and am currently putting the finishing touches on it, so I can send off to CreateSpace for my two free print versions, which I will then distribute to beta readers.
After participating once, I sometimes wonder what this November will bring. Will another idea come out of nowhere in the nick of time and make it possible for me to enjoy the same success as last year? Or could I possibly write a sequel to one of the other novels I’ve written, waiting until November to start? (This is what I consider a fallback option – but at least I do have a sequel that I’ve considered writing.)
I received an unexpected answer to these ponderings this past week. It hit me as inspiration almost always does – unexpected, uninvited. It’s not that I don’t like inspiration, but why can’t I be inspired at times when it’s a little more convenient?
I was driving across town when an image popped into my head. Two characters. And then a scene began to form. From there, it was a novel-size idea. And I was on my way to teach four- and five-year-olds in Sunday school, with no time to even jot down my idea.
I realized that this could be the idea I’d hoped for, except that it had arrived six months too early. I didn’t dare write anything except notes – character’s names and ages and little bits of backstory. If I wrote an actual scene or dialogue, that was it; I could forget using it for NaNo and would have to hope that either I could make the sequel idea work or that another novel-size idea would be born in the intervening months.
As it happens, I have several big projects in the works, and a new novel does not fit into my busy schedule. I barely had time to capture the scope of my idea in writing, much less sit down and let the prose flow. I figured that if I could stall long enough to finish these projects, maybe I could endure until November.
Being extremely busy, however, does not mean that I’ve quit thinking about this new, unwritten story. I’ve been walking around in a daze of possible scenes, sometimes whispering lines – maybe if I do this, I can make them stick. I’m sure anyone who catches me at it will think I’m nuts.
And in stolen moments, I’ve written loose descriptions of these scenes, where and when they happen in the flow of the story, creating – ugh – a sort of outline. Despite being a planner, I like to outline as little as possible when writing fiction. Yes, it’s great to know where a story is going and even some destinations along the way, but during the writing, the adventure is letting the story and characters dictate, day by day and scene by scene, what happens next. So waiting until November to write, allowing myself to put down bullet points and thus possibly boxing my story into a particular shape, isn’t sitting too well.
It’s gotten to the point that I’ve realized I can’t let this go on much longer. Once these projects are no longer occupying my time, and especially once school is out and the kids and I are spending a lot less time commuting and a lot more time at home, it’s going to be hard not to write.
I decided to check out the NaNoWriMo FAQ again, thinking that I would have to use the sequel idea if I wanted to be able to participate this year. I was sure that was one of the questions I saw listed before, but I wasn’t worried about it at the time and didn’t read the answer. Upon checking the site, I didn’t see the sequel question after all, but I did find something else. From their website:
We think NaNoWriMo works best when you start a brand-new project. However, what’s most important is being excited about what you’re writing. If you want to work on a pre-existing project, you have our full support!
Outlines, character sketches, and other planning steps are encouraged. Just be sure to only count words written during the month.
Here’s the loophole, people! Not only are sequels okay, but I could pull out something I started five years ago and pick up where I left off. The only words that count, however, are the ones I write in November, of which there must be a minimum of 50,000.
Hmm… This is very tempting. I can go ahead and write the scene that keeps popping in my head and won’t leave me alone – that way I don’t have to continue whispering it to myself like a crazy person. What I’m afraid of, though, is that once a little fissure opens in the dam, I’m going to invite the whole flood, and I won’t have 50,000 words left to write, come November.
It’s a risk I’m willing to take. After all, I have that sequel that could still work if this new idea takes off. And I think the NaNo people would agree that it’s wonderful that new ideas are still occurring to me and begging to be written. So I’ll hold off as long as I can, but when I can’t keep the creativity in any longer, watch out.