I wrote a novel four years ago. In 30 days. It was my first attempt at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), an internet based writing project that brings together professional and amateur writers from all over the world to get that first draft of a novel done. DRAFT being the operative word here – the month is all about giving yourself the freedom (countered with the pressure of the tick, tick, tick of the clock) to just get it down on paper!
And in the sense that the challenge is to write a novel of 50,000 words I was a success. My word count came in at 50,206. The story was creative fiction, based on my participation in a 12 week group therapy sexual abuse survivor’s group. Yes I know - real light stuff…. The working title was “Creative Destruction” and it told the stories of 11 participants in the group, two counselors and a cast of a half dozen minor characters. It was quite a challenge and an awful lot to take on for my first novel attempt!
The first of November found me at the dining room table, computer on, a few handwritten notes and one of those plain white three sided display boards. The board surrounded my computer on the table. Not only did it provide me a place to post character sketches on index cards, seating charts, and the story’s timeline, it separated me from my “normal” life in the house. When I was “behind the boards” I was a writer. Period. Not an easy task for a self-proclaimed multi task-a-holic like myself. It instantly made the dining room table my writing office and as always, Steve & Abe, the two men in my life, respected that for the month and never interrupted me.
I was faithful to the suggested timeline of 1,666 words per day. It was the most dedicated and driven writing time I’ve ever experienced. Along with the writing, I loved the camaraderie of the online groups, the list of foods (CHOCOLATE!) to help get you through your writing sessions, shared playlists that other writers listened to for inspiration and the weekly pep-talk emails from the organizers, published authors, and regional moderators. I even broke out of my introvert shell a couple times and laptop in hand, attended a few regional writing sessions at local coffee houses. I felt like part of a writing community.
I wrote at all hours of the day and night, struggled for words, worked through plot conflicts and rejoiced in the little victories. I sent my last word count in on November 30th, and collected my “winner” certificate. I’d really wanted to see if I had a novel in me, and I did! Since then, I’ve worked some on the revisions, and someday, the rest of the world may see it, but not right now. Not only have I not devoted the time necessary to a proper revision, I suspect I’m not yet ready to share that part of myself, even woven into a fictional story line.
2009 held some deep personal losses for me and although I tried it again that November, I fizzled out after a few days. Those losses and that fizzle had enough of an impact that I basically stopped writing for a couple years.
Simply put, I missed writing. I challenged myself to write regularly in 2012. I started my blog and am relatively happy with the flow of words that have started again. Then, last week my fingers typed NaNoWriMo in my search engine, and up came the familiar blue and brown shield. Then I logged into my account; browsed the forums, looked at the word count widgets and read a few of the author pep talks from years gone by. Hook, line, sinker. And who knows….maybe another novel born. Let the countdown to November 1st begin - I’ve got a story in mind, a few characters to make it happen and a shopping list in hand. Let’s see… I’ll need a stash of chocolate, a box of my favorite tea and of course, a new, pure white, three-sided display board.