It is arduous.
My first attempt at Nanowrimo four years ago was a piece of cake. Unaware of plot arcs and character development and concise prose, I pumped out 1666 words of sheer crap, day after day.
Now, four Stanford writing courses and two dozen writing books later, I am aware of these things. Now, extracting the words is painful.
Googlers started emailing the internal creative-writing mailing list with their Nanowrimo results. Today one person wrote:
I wrote all day Friday and Saturday, and somewhere in there, I passed the 50,000 word mark.
WTF? He didn't notice passing the mark? I notice when I pass every hundred words!
That's like saying, "I ran a marathon yesterday, and somewhere in the fourth or fifth hour, I passed the 26-mile mark."
Another Googler, "Richard Lederman", kept saying how trivial it was for him to sit down and dash out thousands of words. He sent an email seven days ago (i.e. ten days before the deadline):
My novel is finished. It can be found at [link to novel]
Over IM with my Googler friend "trescott":
trescott: I'm at 33000 words. You?
trescott: You know who sucks? Richard Lederman.
trescott: He finished in 15 days or something.
niniane: He did basically paint a huge bull's-eye on his own ass.
You might be thinking that trescott and I are only saying this because we are jealous. You would be absolutely correct!
(Richard Lederman, if you are reading this, we don't actually think you suck. Come November 30, when we too are winners, all will be forgiven.)
The Nanowrimo organization sends out pep talks once or twice per week. Most of them are corny and useless. But last week they had one from Neil Gaiman, which I and all of my friends agree was truly uplifting:
The last novel I wrote (it was ANANSI BOYS, in case you were wondering) when I got three-quarters of the way through I called my agent. I told her how stupid I felt writing something no-one would ever want to read, how thin the characters were, how pointless the plot. I strongly suggested that I was ready to abandon this book and write something else instead, or perhaps I could abandon the book and take up a new life as a landscape gardener, bank-robber, short-order cook or marine biologist. And instead of sympathising or agreeing with me, or blasting me forward with a wave of enthusiasm---or even arguing with me---she simply said, suspiciously cheerfully, "Oh, you're at that part of the book, are you?"
I was shocked. "You mean I've done this before?"
"You don't remember?"
"Oh yes," she said. "You do this every time you write a novel. But so do all my other clients."
After posting this entry:
niniane: are you okay with my latest blog post?
niniane: sorry, i should've asked before i posted it
trescott: I am not OK with this part:
trescott: (Richard Lederman, if you are reading this, we don't actually think you suck. Come November 30, when we too are winners, all will be forgiven.)
trescott: I will still think he sucks.
niniane: Okay, I'll note that.