When my husband, Aaron, first told me he was going to do National Novel Writing Month, I thought he was crazy. At that point I was already a published author with a number of books out—and the idea of writing 50,000 words in one month daunted me. Since he had only ever written short stories before I was quietly doubtful.
Furthermore, he’d only heard out about NaNoWriMo on November 3rd. He had no prep time. I am a plotter. I don’t like to type Chapter One until I have an outline. Aaron went in seat of the pants with a basic situation but no clue where the plot was going. He used tarot cards for inspiration until the plot took over around chapter six. The mere thought of doing this gives me hives.
This was during NaNoWriMo’s early years and according to the rules at the time you had to sign up before November 1st (now you can sign up on Nov. 30th if you want to). Undeterred, he joined a group called the NaNoWriMo Guerilla Rebellion. And he did it. (Well, actually he finished the novel at 47,000 words and changed all the characters and place names to longer names to artificially push the word count up to 50,000, but since he started three days late, I consider it a win.) And he went on to win for the next seven years. (Including one novel which ends: And then the Earth blew up.)
In years when we both did NaNoWriMo together, it quickly became apparent that my husband writes faster than me. He would often procrastinate until 10 pm before opening his manuscript file, but would then pour out 1666 in an hour or an hour and a half. The only time I write this fast is when I’m doing a much-anticipated scene and/or nearing the home stretch.
My usual writing process is something like this: Write two paragraphs, count my words, write two more paragraphs, noodle around on Facebook, write a page, check my wordcount, check my email, write four more paragraphs, get a beverage, write a page, have lunch, catch fire and write three pages, done. It’s like trying to start a fire. I have to find the right kindling and even then my first sparks tend to burn out. I am a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race type writer.
I have won NaNoWriMo successfully. In fact my husband and I both won NaNoWriMo while having small children in the house. But I have come to accept that he is better at it. He stayed up late on Halloween and wrote 1000 words while I slept. He went to events and became part of the Edmonton writing community. He used Word Wars to get a jump on his word count. He once won our children a humongous stuffed Sullivan (the character from Monsters Inc for those of you without kids) by typing a 100 words with his nose. I’m lucky to get over 200 words in a word war. The only way I could win a Word War would be if the other contestants were forced to type with their noses.
I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year. Since I write all year long, I’m often in the middle of a project when Nov. 1 rolls around. This November is all about the rewrites—and rewriting is an area where I’m better than my husband hands down.