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LJWorld.com weblogs The Line of Letters

The Home Stretch

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Today I passed the 50,000-word mark, which makes me a NaNoWriMo winner.

I’m excited about meeting the base goal, believe me, but since it’s the second time I’ve done it, it’s not as much a jump up and yell kind of thing as it was last year.

I’m still about 8200 words or so from the actual finish of the novel, and with five days left it’s a pretty sure thing I’ll get there. For those who are struggling to get there, it’s not impossible and you CAN still do it.

If there’s a secret to ‘winning’ NaNoWriMo, it’s that you have to write every day. In order to be a successful writer, one has to write every day no matter what. Practice makes perfect, after all.

So what happens now that I’ve won? What do I do AFTER NaNoWriMo?

That was the question I asked myself last year and it came back to me that I had to keep writing. Every day. In order to do that, I had to set myself goals. Modest goals, to be sure, but goals that were specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound. (If you noticed they were SMART goals, points for you.)

NaNoWriMo develops in a budding writer the habit of writing. I’ve had it for a year. If NaNo inspires participants to continue the work they’ve begun in November, then it’s a good thing. The world needs more writers of fiction and non-fiction, or writers who become journalists or screenwriters. The world needs stories that entertain and illuminate, that touch us for whatever reason.

A story that is written down important: even the least of them has some value and is a kind of art. Whether you understand or appreciate it is irrelevant. It exists as the fruit of someone’s exertion to bring it into the world, sometimes half-formed and half-mad and rambling, but it’s there for a reason. The easiest reason is that it had to get out from being trapped in the writer’s head.

NaNo encourages writers to get that big story out their heads in order to make space for the next thing and the thing after that. The best way to make room is to write every day. That’s why I set myself to writing short stories last year in order to explore the sheer number of ideas that came during last year’s run. Specific amounts of words on a monthly schedule that spanned any number of subjects I wanted to explore.

Some of my stories are okay, some need work, but I’m getting better. This year’s NaNo has allowed me to stretch out and really go through a subject in ways that I never considered before I started. The story has gone places I didn’t know it would and a seeming throwaway scene has become a central theme to the novel.

Writing every day has trained me to be able to do this. All I have to do now is keep practicing, keep writing, and I’ll get better.

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