The Strange Stillness of Midnight, December 1

Why, hello, December. I didn’t see you sneaking up there. It’s not very polite, you know, sneaking up on unsuspecting girls like that.

There’s always something strange about the way that midnight on December 1 feels. I know it’s not the impending holiday season magic, because for me, that starts the week before Thanksgiving at Pittsburgh’s annual Light Up Night. And I know it’s not the impending drama of trying to finish everything we haven’t finished on 101 Achievements (although ‘strange’ could definitely describe it).

No, the strangeness that hits at midnight on December 1 is definitely the stillness of the end of NaNoWriMo. At midnight, all typing ceases (except the excited posts on social media about being done), the weekly Write-Ins are a thing of the past, and you get that feeling that after the TGIO Party, you might not see some of your favorite people for the next 11 months.

But mostly, there’s the feeling of what now?? that hits. This was my 11th season of National Novel Writing Month, and I still feel the same as I did way back on December 1, 2002: what am I going to do with myself?

Of course, the answers to the question, ‘what am I going to do with myself now that I’m not trying to write a 50,000 word novel over the course of 30 days’ are plentiful:

~ Catch up on housework
~ Go out dancing
~ Get back to the gym
~ Stay up all night working on Rock Band drum technique
~ Update my blogs
~ Review things on Yelp
~ Sleep in
~ Stop dragging my laptop to karaoke and actually socialize with my friends there
~ Start working on Christmas crafts for my family

(Oh, and perhaps most importantly: GO BACK TO WORKING ON THE BOOK I’M TRYING TO PUBLISH.)

But it still feels weird. I feel a little strange not obsessively updating my Excel Spreadsheet that tracks my daily word counts. (Yes, I am the nerd who keeps that spreadsheet.) I miss refreshing Twitter to see when the next NaNo Word Sprint is starting. I woke up on a Sunday morning and didn’t have to cut and paste a massive list of Write-Ins and events for the week to send out to my WriMos before rushing off to work. And I don’t have any reason to not do laundry!

This year’s NaNoWriMo, in writing-terms, was made of fail. Yes, I hit 50,000 words (and I hit it a full day early this time, finishing just before midnight on 11/29), but it was a struggle to get there. What started out as a really promising idea became a lot of filler scenes while I tried to get the characters’ voices and personalities just right. But even that is an important lesson learned: world-building fantasy stories, for me, are not for the pressure of ‘get it written!’ time in November. While I think I may someday go back and revisit this novel for editing and polishing, I think it’ll be near the bottom of my list, when I have a LOT of free time (it’s still above my 2005 NaNoWriMo novel, although by how much, I can’t be sure).

But the month itself was a success. We had a bigger turnout for our Kick-Off and TGIO parties than EVER before in the 5 years I’ve been ML’ing (holy cow, has it been that long?) and certainly in the 11 seasons I’ve participated. We had a really awesome ‘writing under the influence’ night out at a bar/restaurant in Monroeville. I have gained more new Twitter pals than I would have thought possible over a 30-day period, and we’ve actually made Facebook groups in the hope of *not* having to wait 11 months to see each other again.

And so, when midnight hit on December 1, there was a little twinge of sadness in my heart. Yes, I was excited to have hit 50k and finished, and yes, I was excited to get back to doing all those *other* things I do in my life (except the laundry), but as much as I want November to be done while it’s going on, I also want it to never end. NaNoWrimo has been an important part of my life for over a decade now, and while it might just lose its magic if it was more than once a year, I still wish I could grab every minute of November 30th and stick it there in time so it didn’t end.

For now though, I’ve got to make the most of my non-NaNo time and keep polishing and querying and blogging here. I’ve got to leave behind Daniel and Jani’s world (sorry guys, your world was kind of lame, although I admit that one was mostly my fault), and dive back into Bridget and Alex and Simon’s world. And I’m happy about that, but I’m also sad. Because, you know, you can be both.

But right now, there’s one more thing on my NaNoWriMo plate, and that’s sending the month off as we started it: at midnight, with some of my favorite people. TGIO Party 2012 Round 2 starts in an hour, because sometimes, you just aren’t ready to fully say goodbye at midnight on December 1.

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