It's the eve of November 30th where I live, and with it comes the end of my first NaNoWriMo in which I tackled the (seemingly impossible) task of writing a coherent 50,000-word novel draft. I don't know how I did it (there was probably some pixie dust
Whatever critics have to say about NaNoWriMo (and the debate about whether anyone can ever really write a fair novel draft in a month's time), I will say this for the challenge: it's a good way to get rid of your inhibitions as a writer. Any type of writing challenge can do this, but it helps that NaNoWriMo prides itself on being more about quantity than quality. "Just get the ideas out there," NaNoWriMo entreats. "You may make a mess, but you can clean it up later."
And, boy, did I make a mess with my novel draft. Though thankfully I can't say I flung words at my word document with the reckless abandonment of a child, I didn't really pay attention to the things I normally stress when working on a novel draft ("pretty prose," likable characters, a twist-and-turn plot, etc.). Instead, here's what I managed to do: I explored my world, my characters, and the circumstances surrounding them. Normally, such a process would take me months to do, but NaNo allowed me to do it in record time (for me, at least). Hints of the overarching plot revealed themselves, and I did my best to draw them out, however sloppy my execution. After all, first drafts (again, for me) are the fun part, the act of discovery in which the skeleton of the outline and ideas finally begins to stir with life and gain flesh with every word written. At 50,000 words strong, my novel draft is still weak compared to "real novels," but it has every potential to grow into a strong hero, slaying my doubts like the evil dragons they are and maybe even winning the hearts of fair readers.
However, I know that time of becoming a hero, a legendary novel in its own right, may be a long time coming for this NaNo novel of mine (if it ever comes at all). In the meantime, I'll put it to the side and let it (and my mind) rest; only time away will be able to give me clear insight into whether the novel is worth continuing and sustaining. In December, while other NaNo participants edit and rewrite their novel drafts, I'll be starting my next project. Without NaNoWriMo's challenge hanging over my head, I doubt I'll be able to do the pace I set for myself with NaNo, but hopefully now I'll be able to win more wrestling matches with my doubts.
After all, NaNoWriMo taught me something valuable: for better or for worse, I can no longer deny that I am a writer at heart. My doubts may try to tell me otherwise, and I may never see a novel of mine published in my lifetime...but these stories and characters are no accidents. And, filled with every shade between beauty and pain, they are mine.