The first time i participated in NaNoWriMo, I won. And although the prizes -- winner icons for my web page, the admiration of friends and family, a certificate to print out, unequivocal proof of my insanity for my friends to wave like a matador's cape -- were fabulous, the real prize was far more valuable. I had a real, live novel.
Oh, to be sure, it had its faults. It was full of typos and poor grammer and awkward dialogue and the plot could use a little work. A lot of work, to be perfectly honest, but that was just fine by be. It might have been a terrible novel, but it was a completed novel, and as a person who had never managed to make it past chapter three in any of my previous attempts, I could not have been more delighted. I had succeed in turning off my internal editor and, five years after first reading Bird by Bird, I finally had a shitty little first draft to call my own.
That was in 2002, and I've participated in National Novel Writing Month every year since. This month was my seventh consecutive November of frenzied noveling, unhealthy food choices and dust bunnies the size of the shop vac I'm going to need to get rid of them tomorrow. That gigantic text file I just uploaded into the NaNoWriMo validator is my sixth novel. (Yeah, I know. November, 2004 was really not a good month for me. I don't like to talk about it.)
As I sat there, waiting for the little blue progress bar under my user name to be replaced by the regal purple bar that says Winner!, there was only one thought on my mind: Shouldn't this be getting easier?
I mean, think about it. This was my seventh time out of the gate, and my sixth time across the finish line. Shouldn't my characters be more well rounded? Shouldn't my dialogue be wittier and more realistic? Shouldn't my plots be noticeably less porous? Shouldn't I be finishing earlier in the month, instead of later? It would make sense, right? However, in my case at least, the answer is obviously Not A Chance.
I don't think I am being unreasonable here. I am not expecting myself to churn out the Great American Novel, if such a beast even exists. I am not expecting miracles, and I do not expect practice to make me perfect. What I do expect is for practice to make me better, but what I'm seeing is the opposite.
I've been thinking about this for a week now, and I'm sure it's something I'll be thinking about first thing tomorrow morning when I sit down at my desk and fire up my word processor. But I refuse -- refuse! -- to think about it right now.
Right now, I am going to open a beer, and sit down in front of the football game with my feet on the coffee table and the cat on my lap, and when I need another beer, I shall ask my husband to fetch it for me. I deserve it.
I just wrote a novel.