Of Growth and Noveling

In 2008, when I was some now forgotten grade in high school, I stumbled upon NaNoWriMo. If you haven’t the foggiest what that is, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), is a month long challenge where you try to write the rough draft of a novel (50,000 words) in 30 days. If you hit that word goal, you win serious bragging rights and have a finished draft of a novel. I won that first year, with a story I had been working on since I was twelve.

Fast-forward to now. I’ve been working on said story off and on for just under twenty years. Writing that sentence makes me feel much older than I actually am, which brings us back to NaNoWriMo.

A blue, white, and gold banner that says “NaNoWriMo 2019 Writer.”

This year NaNo (as we affectionately call it) turns twenty. It seems appropriate that I’m doing a story I’ve been working on almost as long as NaNo is old. It’s been delightful to watch NaNoWriMo become a world wide phenomenon, helping people put down that first draft and help them on their way to publication.

As NaNo has grown, so have I. Blessedly growth is inevitable over the course of seventeen years. And as I’ve grown, so has my story.

When I was twelve, I was idealistic and downright naive. I thought I could write a book that everyone would be allowed to read and want to read. I did my best to make the story a carbon copy of a bestseller-that-shall-not-be-named (brownie points if you catch the reference) and came close to succeeding. When I was thirteen I realized that was called plagiarism and I worked on making something unique. And here we are, sixteen years later. For the twentieth anniversary of NaNoWriMo I’m writing the start of a dark Young Adult fantasy series. A large leap from my typical, but I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited for a story as I am for this one.

Looking at the plot, the world building, the characters, I can still see some of that twelve year-old idealism. And frankly, I like that. There’s that pool of darkness, and within it there’s a drop of hope. That hope comes in the shape of diversity, magic and snark. And of course a fair dose of idealism on the part of some of the characters. But sometimes that’s what you need. A little bit of idealism, a little bit of hope.

That’s the spirit of NaNoWriMo after all. Setting a seemingly impossible goal, coming together, and doing your best. Win or lose (and trust me I’ve failed far more times than I’ve succeeded), the results are beautiful.

A square banner that says “Dedication: 1. What it takes to finish your novel. 2. The place where you’ll expect to see your name in your writing buddies’ published novels.”

By the time you read this I’ll be four days into the madness and joy that NaNoWriMo gives me. If you’d like to know more about what I’m writing and get cryptic hints, you should mosey on over to my Instagram or Facebook page. If you’re one of the many doing NaNo this year I would love to learn about what you’re working on and toss some encouragement your way! After all, learning about other’s writing projects is half the fun.

Whatever your goal is, to read more, to write a novel, or just survive the month, I’m rooting for you. We’ve got this.

The Most Frenzied Time of the Year

Ah yes. November. Thoughts turn to Christmas shopping, and a good number of us Americans start thinking about Thanksgiving. Yet if you stand close to a writer there’s a fair chance you’ll see furrowed brows and a distracted look. Not to mention that undeniably distinctive smell of adrenaline and anxious longing. Clearly they aren’t thinking about presents and turkey. But you can’t blame us for that. After all, it’s November.

It’s time for NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month.


But For those of you not familiar with it, the idea is to write 50,000 words in thirty days–the standard size of most novels. If you win, you’ll come out with a draft of a novel and serious bragging rights. By the time you read this, we’ll already be five days in. Ideally by the end of today, we writers will have at least 8,337 words under our belt. Some of us (like me) will be behind, some of us will be on target, and some of us will be miles ahead. But we’ll all be having fun doing what we love. Writing.

Some people swear by NaNoWriMo, and others decry it saying you can’t get anything beyond trash if you try to write a novel in a month. Of course, both sides claim the other is spouting rubbish.

Then there’s me, firmly in the middle.

When I first ventured into the depths of NaNoWriMo in 2009, I won. What I came out with was…rubbish. To be fair, I was young, I had little to no experience with novel writing, and yes, I was quite idealistic. That idealism worked wonders for me while writing, but I was under the impression that I could bang out a draft and it would be set to go to the presses. Like I said, I was young.

I put my novel aside when November was over and pulled it out a few months later.

I was mortified. Oh, the idea was good. But any reader will tell you plot alone won’t save a story. My characters and dialogue had me baffled in places. It was too hard to tell who was who if I didn’t constantly name them, simply because I didn’t flesh out the characters enough. To be so confused by one’s own writing is quite embarrassing.

And yet, I still have that draft. Off and on for the past nine years, I’ve been doing the world building, the character sheets, and creating a full on outline for the book and the series it will be a part of.

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo nearly every year after that, although I’ve only ever won one other time. But I’ve never considered those times a loss. I’ve come to find that no matter how awful the writing is, you still come away with something. Each time I’ve learned more about writing, myself, and my local writing community.

But the goal of NaNoWriMo isn’t to get to 50,000 words or to even come out with a workable draft at the end of it all. The goal is to enjoy writing. To take the time as often as you can to write. To push yourself and your story forward. There’s no shame in not “winning.” You tried. You decided to take a chance. And heaven knows, there’s no shame in saying that this year there’s no way you can hold on to your  mental and physical health and write that much. The goal is to have fun, to write, and to take care of yourself in the process.

I personally think that anyone interested in writing and those who want to make it part of their lives (whether publishing their writing or work in the publishing industry) should give it a go. After all, the greatest adventure is to take a chance on yourself.