On one hand, I feel a little sad admitting it when it seems I have so little to show for my efforts. I mean, where are the stacks of published books? But published books or not, I’m proud of how much my writing has changed over the years. I may not be where I want to be yet in terms of a full-fledge career but if you were to compare my first Nanowrimo attempt with the last, you would insist they weren’t written by the same author. Yeah, the first one was that bad.
For anyone who doesn’t know (and if you don’t know, have you been living under a rock all these years?), Nanowrimo is National Novel Month and it happens every November. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. It’s more about the commitment to finishing a novel than the word count, I believe. The people who run the show do an excellent job of promoting enthusiasm amongst its participants and offering great advice along the way to keep you motivated.
In 2007, I was a stay-at-home mom looking after a toddler just shy of his second birthday and a six month old baby. Both were in diapers. But being very routine-oriented, I had both on a similar schedule that included at least an hour long afternoon nap. That’s when most of my writing happened although I do remember squeezing in free moments early in the morning before they woke or in the evening with a glass of wine after they went to bed.
I had little reason to think I could actually write a novel but I’d always wanted to try. My entire school career, I’d never met an English teacher who didn’t go crazy over my creative writing. I’d had an entire lifetime of people telling me I should write a book and I always thought I’d be good at it. I mean, how hard could it be, right?
HA HA HA HA
Turns out, writing a book is a lot harder than I’d ever imagined and although I “won” Nanowrimo by completing 50,000 words that first year, my so-called story was a royal mess. A couple of times I’ve looked back and wondered if there is anything in that jumble of words I could salvage but the answer is no. Just no.
BUT! It taught me a valuable lesson. Before that attempt, I’d never tried to write anything longer than a short story. I discovered that it was not only possible to sit my butt in a chair and work on a novel but I actually really loved the process. I had a blast. Even though I knew I didn’t have a story worth rewriting and submitting – I was hooked. Most Novembers I have participated in Nanowrimo, I have successfully written 50,000 words. I think there have only been 2 I did not.
Fast forward to 2017. Now I have a young man just shy of his 12th birthday, a 10 year-old, and I’ve added a third kid to the mix who is now 8!
I kept writing even when it wasn’t November, although some days that’s easier than others with small children. Now that all three kids go to school, however, I have the days to myself to write to my heart’s content. I forget sometimes how crazy the days used to be. And some days I kind of miss that. It was fun having little kids around with big imaginations and they forced me to be more focused in time management.
My approach to Nanowrimo has changed. For so long I insisted that November was my play time as a writer. I would approach the month with only the inkling of an idea and just let the story unfold as the days went by. Sadly, as much fun as it is to write this way, the end product still tends to be chaotic at best.
I’ve finally accepted that in order to produce something that stands half a chance of being worth working with come December, I have to plan. Maybe not every scene but I have to know something about my story. I have to understand story structure. I have to know characters and plot points. There is just no way around it. I’ve been spending a lot of time studying books on writing and I still struggle with it. Sometimes I swear it makes sense so I put together an outline and bam, I write … and I still stall out.
Take Waking Fire for example. There is a story there, I’m convinced of it but the rewriting process, to me, is almost painful. Not nearly as much fun as the creating stage. I’ll get there eventually but just not nearly as soon as I’d like.
So… this November I try again. It’s my tenth year anniversary, after all, so I’ve got to make this special, right? I have this little voice in my head that keeps whispering this is the year I am going to write something great (okay, I’ll settle for publishable). I have an idea and I’ve put a lot of thought into that idea. Today and tomorrow I will attempt to complete at least a high level outline. At the very least, I need to know the main turning points and how it all ends and I need to feel confident those choices are solid so that every scene I write during the 30 day frenzy makes sense.
We’ll call this year’s attempt at a novel “Hope” and I’ll sit down to write on November 1st with the same flurry of excitement I always feel when the story is still fresh and new and anything is possible…
Are you participating in National Novel Writing Month this year? Want to be my buddy and cheer each other on? You can find me by clicking here -> Nanowrimo