Today is November 1, otherwise known as the first day of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or just NaNo). During November, writers around the world aspire to write 50,000 words (aka a novel-length piece) in a single month.
There’s an official signup where you can track your progress, encourage others, and “win” by completing the task, but there’s also plenty of people who do it unofficially, working on their own with the hopes of cranking out nearly 2,000 words daily to complete the task.
Though I’ve never officially done NaNo, I think it’s a great tool for many writers, especially those particularly affected by writers’ block, or who thrive on a community banded together for a common goal. I also love the spotlight it gives to the writing world and the work and artists who fill it.
That said, I’ve noticed that in years past, most people are focused on crossing the finish line.
They just want to get to 50,000 words in a month—quite the feat, indeed. (Even though 90 percent of the people who do NaNo most likely know that 50,000 words is normally too short for a novel and that they will have to add another 10,000 words at least, and that they will have to do extensive revision before sending anything written in a month out to agents and editors. RIGHT?)
And, with all this focus on “the end,” I thought I’d share a conversation I had this week with a coworker. We went for a walk on our lunch break and began to discuss books. She’s an avid reader, and involved in a book club. When we discussed what she was currently reading, she said she was halfway through Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places. This, of course, led me to ask if she’d read Flynn’s monster hit Gone Girl. She nodded, but then chewed on her words for several seconds.
“Did you like it?” I asked, before adding, “I loved it.”
She bit her lip. “I did—until I got to the end. I mean, what the heck?”
Now, I won’t give it away, just in case there’s someone reading this who hadn’t read the ending. But basically, and this is what I told her, the ending, as innocuous as it is, is the most twisted thing about the novel—which is saying something.
Many people I know didn’t like it. In fact, I didn’t like it, per se, though I totally respect the genius stroke Flynn had in leaving so many readers uncomfortable.
For me, even with the ending, the book was brilliant and I recommended it to many, many people. But for this reader, it left her too uncomfortable. She didn’t recommend it and she didn’t see the movie when it came out, even though it was nominated for all sorts of awards and had an all-star cast. And yet, she was giving the author another chance. Because even though she didn’t like the ending, it, like the book, stuck with her, and propelled her to read more.
So, dear NaNo warriors, when you get to the end—whether it be this month or next—make sure it counts. No two readers will view your ending the same way, so make sure it’s the right one for you.