Sunday, November 30, 2014

Final Thoughts on NaNoWriMo

I thought about including these thoughts in another post, but honestly, I thought it deserved its own write-up, because for me this was a very big deal. I didn't want to bury it somewhere that it would seem insignificant.

I may have mentioned when I first started NaNoWriMo, that I was planning to go all rebel on you, and write a nonfiction autobiographical account of my last several years. I wrote about 7,000 words before I realized, hey, I can turn this into a novel. This post (how to turn your life into a novel) was sort of helpful in that regard, but mostly, I just relied on my sense of humor and spry writing skills of joy.

If you read Chris Baty's history of NaNoWriMo, you know that this is serious business! I wasn't sure what to think. I had heard of it for a few years from my friend Sarah, who has participated in the past. She was a much-smarter, violin-playing genius who lived next to me at Covenant, so I figured, "there is no way I am in the same camp as Sarah," when I started to consider writing a 50,000 word book at the end of October. Yes, it was the end of October. Yes, I got on the bandwagon at the last minute, and I somehow still managed to get my name in our local Pulse. (Read all about it!)

I first realized NaNoWriMo was a really cool, real thing when I went to the meet-up at a local coffee shop in town. I met the Municipal Liaison Shannon and we hit it off really well. She is extremely good at keeping the boonies-people out of the Chattanooga group, so for that we are all thankful. ;) Shout out

I had two problems at the beginning. First, I had already written 7,000 words. That's against the rules. Second, I didn't know how to write a novel. I had to scrap the 7,000 words of nonfiction and start fresh on November 1st.

As you can see, keeping up with the daily word count was, for me, a serious challenge. While I was reading updates like "passed my daily goal by 10,000 words today" from some of my fellow NaNoWriMo participants, I would look at my little graph and think.... oh my goodness, I am so behind!  They kept telling me that at the rate I was going, I would finish sometime around mid-September of 2022. Finally around day 22 or 23, or the third weekend of the month, I had a lot of time to work on it. It was the weekend, two of our kids were at Grammy's house, and I pushed myself really hard and drank a BUNCH of coffee. You can see on my graph- my word count shot up from 29,246 to 35,171 words in one day, basically almost to the target for that day... which, for me, was a very big deal. I kept showing Stephen on the laptop. "Look! See?! WooHoo!!!! I can't believe I'm doing this! Jealous of myself!!"

Finding writing time was its own challenge. As a full-time Mom, I can't necessarily buckle down and do serious work during the day. So I started waking up at 5:15 every morning. By the third week, it was really starting to wear on me, and by the end of the day I was soooo tired, I was about to pass out after dinner. But I still felt like I was getting somewhere with my plot, I was getting to know and beginning to enjoy my characters, and I kept encountering my protagonist in random people I met throughout the day. Basically, all I can say is: I felt inspired. That's the only reason I kept on writing.

I listened to this music during the entirety of writing my novel.

I wasn't sure how I was going to finish, what with Thanksgiving on the horizon and the positive feeling I had that I would be too busy those last few days of November. Throughout the entire process, energy for the novel came out of nowhere. One day, maybe the second Saturday of the month, Stephen was watching the kids so I kept bounding up the stairs, two at a time to quickly jot down my ideas. Near the end of the month I started dreaming about my novel, and having ideas for the next scenes in my dreams. I told you it was inspired, in a way! After we got back from our trip, I had a huge burst of inspiration and wrote another 2,000 on Friday night to catch up a bit.

The last two days I buckled up and hung on for the ride, and pushed to keep going. I kept going to back to read over it and I was wasting time. I kept editing the first part over and over again. I had to open another document in Google docs, because I was pressed for time, and the first document was too long to edit. I wrote another 1,500 words, edited a little, and here we are.  I'm a novel writer. I'm a novel writing beast.
this image has never been used before

The process of writing a novel has been eye-opening.   This experience made me a more conscientious writer, and it has really improved my endurance levels. I've never written anything like this before. Perhaps a few short stories along the way, but that's it.  I think it could lead to other opportunities in the future. I definitely want to keep writing for RH- nothing is changing on that front! But coming up with a plot and keeping up with this story has been a wild ride. 
All done!

I wouldn't say my novel is amazing, submittable material, but if it were pared down to say, a novella, I would be proud-ish.   I always wondered how novelists are able to edit such lengthy books, and I think the answer is that after working on it for so long, you start to discover that you have memorized it! You know where all the conversations are, and you know where they lead, and you can snap back 100 pages in time and immediately know where your protagonist went on a trip with her friend to New York City to visit a photographer friend of theirs and got stuck in NYC traffic on the way to an art show.  You know because it took you six hours to write that part.
But, even still I made it:
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Everyone should participate next year! It's fun. Start thinking about what you'll write now-- but don't start writing it! That's against the rules... obviously.  ;-)

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