I’ve been participating in National Novel Writing Month since 2004. My only failure was 2012, when I was too stressed out about my impending move across half the country for the job I just retired from, and in 2005 and 2006 I wrote two novels in November rather than just the one. So: I have fifteen novels under my belt, never mind the short stories and vignettes and the like I’ve also written over the years.
What I don’t have–or didn’t, for quite a long time–was a consistent voice. It became obvious to me early on that if I read too much in October, I’d end up writing novels that read a whole lot like what I imagine The Asylum’s take on those authors would be if they published novels instead of movies: low-budget knockoffs that mainly make you wish you were just watching the real thing. So I stopped reading novels a month or so before most Novembers in an attempt to keep myself from just aping the authors I like. (My one explicit attempt to do such aping was the year that Iain Banks died; I reread the entire Culture series in October and set out to write an explicit pastiche. I failed miserably. Turns out that Banks’ voice is pretty unique, funny and sharp and clever all at the same time, and copying that is really really hard, particularly when you only have thirty days to do so. Who knew.)
And, at least in recent years, I’ve found that I do have a voice. It’s not particularly strong yet; I think that its development is definitely hampered by the fact that almost all of my writing is done under the severe time constraints of NaNoWriMo, and so I value vomiting as many words as possible onto the page at the highest speed over clever writing for the ages, assuming that’s even something I’m capable of. But despite that high-pressure high-velocity environment, something of my character still shines through.
Perhaps some day I’ll even have some examples worth sharing to make my point.
It’ll be interesting to see, first, whether I’m actually capable of sustained writing without time constraints; back in 2010 I challenged myself to write a million words over the course of the year, and only managed a little over 300,000, but that was just a much longer constraint. Now, well… I’m not entirely sure. Will I need to set artificial deadlines for myself? The advantage for someone like me of being a published author is that your publisher and editor set those deadlines for you, given that they generally want to see the work they paid for before the heat death of the Universe, but I have no such constraints.
And if you’re wondering: hey, Phil, is this longish meta-post about writing just another way for you to procrastinate when it comes to actually working on your fiction? then, uh, go bake a batch of cookies and then give yourself one. And send me the rest. A writer’s gotta have fuel, after all.