NaNoWriMo: The Post-Op Report
Having now completed my second (non-consecutive) NaNoWriMo during a month in which I worked full-time, was enrolled in three credits of pre-calculus math courses, celebrated Thanksgiving with two different families, and nursed an ailing girlfriend through an abscessed wisdom tooth and its extraction, I am now firmly of the belief that The Office of Letters and Light should issue a pamphlet of post-operational instructions to guide participants through the rehabilitation process. Chuck Wendig has graciously offered us a list of suggestions which alludes to that Robert Frost poem about suicide. Sound advice for all NaNo participants (well, maybe not the suicide bit) delivered in his usual monkey-fist-to-your-windpipe method; I highly recommend taking it.
Were I to add to his list, I might also advise allowing yourself a small slackening of pace for the remainder of your journey. I myself plan on dialing back the throttle from 1,667 to 1,500 per day. Huge difference, amirite? Maybe not, but the friendly zeroes and easily-divisible nature of 1,500 put me at ease. Nothing against prime numbers, mind you, but 1,667 is an erratic, unstable entity that might suddenly shift beneath you, throwing you headlong into an ocean of sulfuric acid so you can watch the flesh slough from your bones to a soundtrack of your own agonizing screams. However, you certainly deserve no more cheerful a fate if you just let your project rot once December’s rent comes due. If you do, you are abandoning your characters and their world to the horrors of nonbeing. They will forever suffer in a state of quantum uncertainty, not knowing if they are even alive at all. After spending an entire month with them, nurturing them, laughing with them, screaming obscenities at them, killing them in non-ambiguous ways, you can’t just leave them staring into the churning abyss from whence comes all madness and despair.
Though your hands may feel like the above image (courtesy of one Roberta Scalvini), you must not let a day pass without adding even a little to the creature now spread out upon the operating table of your imagination. Splice genes, add limbs, nip/tuck, arc electric currents through sensitive tissues, and do whatever else you need to do (to yourself) to get that thing viable and functional. It may only be 500 words per day, but hold to your guns and see the battle through. If you do, you may end up with a book on shelves one day. After all, my 2009 NaNo project became my debut novel The Dead of Winter, and this year’s project is the first (half of the first) draft of the sequel She Returns From War. You never know what may happen with a finished manuscript, but you can always know with absolute certainty what happens with an unfinished one: nothing. And not the awesome kind of nothing government agents convince you you saw that night in the sky. This is a boring, terrible, shame-inducing nothing that will make you sound lame at cocktail parties. If you’re as socially adroit as I am, you don’t need any help in that regard, so do yourself a favor and finish the goddamn manuscript.