In 2009, I participated in my first National Novel Writing Month, and I "won!" For those unfamiliar, NaNoWriMo is a huge writing exercise, the goal of which is to crank out a complete novel of at least 50,000 words within the 30 days of November. There are no prizes, other than a rough draft of your novel and some bags under your eyes. During my first NaNoWriMo, I was unemployed, so I had tons of time for writing, and I ended up with about 63,000 words.
I've done it three times since then - one more November and then two of the new summer version, Camp NaNoWriMo. I was going to do it again, this month. I even cranked out a quick opening paragraph during the first hour of the first day. I got no further. Why?
On the afternoon of the first, I learned that there's a blogger equivalent of NaNoWriMo - something called National Blog Post Month, or NaBloPoMo. Now, I'm not a prolific blogger. I posted 22 times in 2011, and was on an even slower pace in 2012. Lately, most of what I've been doing on my blog has been little bits of back-stories for John Hodgman's 700 Hobo Names, and even that exercise was faltering a bit, this summer.
So, I saw before me a new challenge. This is not to say that writing 50,000 words in a month is easy. It is not. It's grueling. But I'm nothing if not wordy, and I can get my novel characters talking and just let them blather on for 30 days. Boom - novel. Okay, there's more to it than that, but I've done it four times, so I think I've passed that test.
The actual written output required for 30 blog posts is certainly smaller, probably by more than half, so I thought this would be easier than a novel. It could have been, if I were a real blogger with a million things to say, or if I were more comfortable writing about politics, or 1980's pop culture or myself, but I'm not. I don't have a lot of material swimming in my head all day, just waiting to leap onto the screen when I get home. I had to come up with 30 different things to write about! I made a conscious decision early-on to allow myself only 10 posts about hoboes, so that left a lot of wide-open playing field.
I have three to go, after this one, and it looks like I'm going to make it, but I have come to the conclusion that this is, at least for me, every bit as challenging as NaNoWriMo. I've had to pull out ideas jotted down years ago, dust them off, and hastily turn them into blog posts. I've had to record a discussion with [Maris] about SUPERPOWERS! I've begun to bore even myself. And while I'm not too worried about this, thanks to having so few readers, I have managed to water down my blog.
It's a good exercise, mind you. It forced me to write every day, and to come up with a few topics I might not have otherwise explored. And I got through it - without just writing 30 hobo stories. Hopefully, I've added a reader or two. And I've definitely gained a little confidence as a writer of bloggy things.
A 50,000-word novel in 30 days (whether jobless or employed, child-free or blessed with offspring) is exhausting. An original blog post a day for 30 days is a brain-draining marathon in its own right. They're both pretty brutal, and completing either will give you an incredible sense of accomplishment.
Unless I find myself a year from now just overstuffed with ideas, I won't be doing this blogfest again. I have four rough drafts of novels, two of which need sequels and all of which need some attention. Forget National Use Up All Your Blog Post Ideas Month - Bring on the next Camp NaNoWriMo!
Okay, I might try to do both, next year...