Well, I had my doubts, but here we are on November 30 and after two previously failed attempts, I can finally say I “won” NaNoWriMo. I crossed the 50,000-word mark on Thanksgiving. My novella turned out to be 43,000 words, so I picked up where I left off a non-fiction book to complete the 50,000 words.
Writing the novella in one month is a satisfying feeling. It’ll take me another month or two to revise it and I have plans to do that. But since it is a Christmas novella, I’m not in any real hurry. If I self-publish the book, I will have plenty of time to get it ready by next Christmas. If I go with a traditional publisher, I’m already too late for the 2014 Christmas season, so it won’t come out until 2015 anyway.
Speaking of publishers, a few people have asked me if I have a publisher for the book, and for the first time in many years, I can honestly say I didn’t think about that during the creation process. I know at least one publisher who will take a look at it, and I know two more who might, but we’re finally at the point in the publishing process in which a publisher is no longer necessary. I may just publish it myself. We’ll see.
Over the last thirty days I have learned quite a bit about myself as a writer.
I’ve learned I can work long hours during the day as an editor, but then still have enough energy to sneak away at night for a few hours to work on my own writing project. It means cutting back on TV and social gatherings, but cutting back on TV is probably never a bad thing and I still had time for a few social gatherings. I just had to be more intentional with my time.
I’ve learned I can indeed write fiction, and that thrills me because it has always been my dream. Selling fiction as a first time novelist is more difficult than selling a non-fiction book because you have to write the entire book first and then hope a publisher will buy it. It typically doesn’t work that way with non-fiction. But now that I know I can write a novella in 30 days, I might just make a habit – especially if my first novel sells well. By the way, it’s a series that can go on without end if people really like it.
I’ve learned I can write anywhere at any time and with more confusion going on around me than I ever imagined.
One of my NaNoWriMo writing sessions included standing at a table in an indoor soccer complex while my niece played soccer. I hammered out my remaining 300 words that night before her game started. Another included writing in a noisy restaurant late one night in which all of the customers were crammed into one section, presumably because it would be easier for the server to handle us. I slipped my headphones on and listened to nature sounds to drown out the noise.
Finally, I reaffirmed something I already knew – I can write on nearly any sort of equipment when necessary. In addition to writing on my laptop, I also wrote one scene on my iPad during a bowling league and a couple of more scenes on my AlphaSmart 3000 during halftime of a football game.
I have been going through writing withdrawals the past couple of days since completing my novella. That's a good thing. I need to harness that feeling to finish the revisions so I can move on to book two in the series.
A number of years ago, a couple of my friends and I stopped exchanging lame Christmas gifts and instead pooled the money we would have used for those gifts to buy food for our local homeless shelter or diapers for the Lydia House – a shelter in Omaha, Neb. that offers emergency services and life-changing programs for women and families. In recent years we have shifted our focus solely toward diapers.
As others heard about our “Three Singles Dudes and a Diaper Drive” they began offering donations which allowed us to buy even more turkeys or diapers. In 2010, people donated enough for us to buy 596 diapers. In 2011, we had enough for 1,735 diapers. And in 2012, we were able to buy 1,620.
Those numbers are astounding to us. Not because we are doing anything special, but rather because of the number of people who have wanted to help with our little ole diaper drive.
We would love to make the 2013 diaper drive the best one yet, so I set up a page on the YouCaring.com website to facilitate donations. Here's a link. No pressure though. We know times are tough.
Thirty thousand words is the magical number for NaNoWriMo participants as of the end of the day. I’m slightly ahead of schedule, and that’s a good thing since I’ll be traveling at the end of the week and may have to cash in those extra words.
This past week, I worked my way past the halfway point and that felt incredible. Although, shortly before that happened, I wrote my way into a corner and couldn’t figure out how to get out of it. Wanting to press on, I put my characters in a room to see what might happen and one of them did something that was consistent with who she is, but I just didn’t see it coming. That fixed the problem.
The beauty of NaNoWriMo is, it doesn’t allow you to stop producing words. My natural tendency would have been to stop writing for a few days until I could figure out what to do. But I would have missed the opportunity to be in the moment with my characters to see how they would respond.
As a non-fiction writer, I should have known this, but for some reason it didn’t compute. If I’m on deadline with a newspaper, I can’t put the article aside to figure out how to shape it. I just have to dive in and fight my way through the fog until it lifts. And it will lift as long as I keep moving. Now that I know the same methodology applies to fiction, I’ll take full advantage of it.
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? If so, I would love to hear what you are learning.
NaNoWriMo veterans refer to this week as the second week doldrums – the time when many participants fall behind on their word count goals and then begin to stress over it, or even quit.
I’ve done it in the past.
But so far, so good this time around. The goal by the end of the day is 18,336 words. I just passed the 19,000 mark. My story arc is coming together. I know where it’s headed. Conflict is higher than expected. And the characters are settling into their roles nicely – even surprising me once in a while.
And when I’m not writing, I’m thinking about the characters and their world. The creative juices have nowhere else to go but on the page as I finally sit down to write in a restaurant or coffee shop each night. And I think that’s been a key factor in making more progress than I have in the past.
Some writers never talk about their work in progress. I’ve never been one of those writers, but then again, I've written primarily non-fiction, and that's a different animal. So I decided to keep silent about this novel, based on a theory I wanted to test.
When you experience a tough situation and talk it through with a friend, you release all your angst and then feel better afterward, right? What if that applies to writing fiction? What if talking about a work in progress releases all of your creative angst and then you haven’t nothing left to draw on when you sit down to write?
Writers are curious creatures. We find all sorts of excuses not to write. So we come up with theories like the one I proposed above to trick ourselves into producing words. NaNoWriMo itself is a trick designed to get us to produce words without worrying about revision or whether it’s good enough or not. Keeping my book to myself is the trick I’m using this year, and so far it’s working.
I attended the NaNoWriMo write-in at Perkins in Omaha on October 31. Maybe 15 people showed up and we all got to know each other before the clock struck midnight.
Then it was on.
I ordered a pot of coffee and wrote nearly 900 words over the next hour or so. The group disbanded around 1:00 a.m., so I finished my other 700 words on Friday evening at Barnes & Noble—which may become my home away from home in November.
On Saturday, I split my writing sessions again, writing the bulk of my word count in the morning and finished near midnight.
Sunday looked much the same.
Routine is good. It keeps me going.
So far, participants need to have written 5,000 words to be on pace to finish by the end of November. I’ve written 5,183, as you can see in the sidebar. I need to be at 6,667 by the end of the day. My guess is, the magic will happen in a local coffee shop later tonight.
During the day (I write and edit for various publications and publishers), I’ve been listening to writing podcasts to keep the creative juices flowing. Here’s what I’ve been listening to:
I've also been friending writers on the NaNo website so I can see where they are in the process. It's always helpful to know that others are walking the same path. Feel free to friend me if you want to.
If you are participating in NaNoWriMo this year, what are you doing to stay motivated and to keep the creative juices flowing?
Lee Warren is a freelance writer and editor who has written twelve non-fiction books, one novella and hundreds of articles for various newspapers and magazines as well as edited more than 50 books that currently appear in print. He's a fan of NASCAR, baseball, tennis, books, movies and coffee shops.