A couple of people have asked me if I was going to do NANOWRIMO this year. For those unfamiliar with it, NANOWRIMO stands for National Novel Writing Month and the idea is that you write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. NANOWRIMO is an online (and in person) community of writers who encourage writers.
It’s a cool deal, and I did it last year (writing the last 50,000 words of Jackson Speed at the High Tide last November). I really enjoyed NANOWRIMO, and it probably forced me to finish the fourth Jackson Speed novel about two months earlier than I would have.
NANOWRIMO works really well for me for a couple of reasons. First, I’m accustomed to working on deadlines having spent 20 years or so in the newspaper business. Second, Jackson Speed’s life has already played itself out pretty thoroughly in my head. There may be details yet to be written, but I have a fairly thorough understanding of where he’s going and what he’s going to do. So the only thing that stands between me and the conclusion of the next novel is research and time. I don’t have to dream up a lot of ideas. I just have to do the research and make the time to write.
But when it comes to NANOWRIMO this just isn’t the year for me.
In May I closed the newspaper I owned. In August I sold that newspaper to the Athens Banner-Herald and they hired me on a part-time, freelance basis to do some work for the paper. Also in August, I started a new business with one of my former college roommates, Ken Sawyer. The work to start a new business is significant, and right now it means that I’m spending a lot more time writing for work than I was a year ago when my duties ran more along the lines of editing and managing the newspaper. For MoonCalf Press – the business Ken and I started – I’m also doing a fair amount of writing.
None of that is to say that I’m not also writing Jackson Speed. A few weeks ago I started the fifth book and I’m a significant way into it. It’s possible (though not likely) that I will this month write 50,000 words of the next Jackson Speed book anyway, but I don’t want to commit to NANOWRIMO if I’m already thinking that it’s unlikely that I’m going to be able to finish it out.
For whatever reason, I tend to publish most of my books in the spring, and I suspect the next Jackson Speed book will again publish in the spring, maybe mid-May.
So, for those writers who are participating in NANOWRIMO, I wish you luck! You have all my sympathy as I reflect back on last November when I stayed up until the wee morning hours trying to knock out another 5,000 or 10,000 words. It really is an experience, and if you win NANOWRIMO (or even if you just give it a good try), I think you’ll be glad for the effort you put into it. I know in my case it will last with me for years as one of my favorite writing events, and I hope next November I’ll be better positioned to give it another go.