NaNo Month of Turbulence

This is the first time since I started writing that I didn’t “win” National Novel Writing Month, completing 50,000 words by the end of November. Being a recovering perfectionist, it was hard to let go of that goal but with pre and post-election chaos, the closing of my Michigan home, and Covid-19 numbers spiking, I figured it might be hard to focus.

In past years, I would have given up everything to avoid failure and pull out a win. Instead I spent a restorative last weekend of the month at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Western North Dakota. On the way, I visited New Town Sue (the World’s largest holstein cow) and The Enchanted Highway where the world’s largest scrap metal sculpture “Geese in Flight” stands 110’ tall, 150’ wide, weighs 78.8 tons. The meandering trip was a well needed break from the four walls and subdivision city living that I’ve come to know the last two months.

Instead of sitting in the house grinding away at a story that went to the dark side on Day 2, I chased sunrises and sunsets amid the stark beauty of the Badlands. Instead of inventing new characters, I delighted in the whimsy of a huge fiberglass cow and fantastical scrap metal sculptures that were larger than life. Instead of taking a walk on the city sidewalks, I hiked five different trails and scoped out the Maah Daah Hey trailhead for a future hike. And instead of domesticated city dogs, I relished seeing bison, big horn sheep, and wild horses in their natural habitat.

The weekend adventure served another deeper purpose for me as well. Growing up in North Dakota, I lived life small and afraid to venture outside my comfort zone. These past two months, I’ve felt myself reverting back to that person which made me sad, like I was losing a piece of myself. I needed this weekend to remind me that I’m an adventurous soul who is always learning, growing, and seeking out new experiences.

This November I redefined winning. I reconnected to my wandering spirit and got my butt in the chair writing again. Plus, there’s always NaNoWriMo 2021.

NaNoWriMo in Election Month During a Pandemic

I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month the past two Novembers. Every October is a little nerve wracking thinking about what I’ll write.

The first year I planned a fictionalized version of my memoir, wrote an outline, and felt confident in my plan. November 1st came and I tossed the outline and wrote memoir. Having learned from that, the second year I intended to write a love story about Marines John and Lena Basilone. That morphed into three love stories spanning generations. I’ve learned to just let go because once November 1st hits, I’ll write whatever comes into my head with just a core story idea. In NaNo speak, I’m a “pantser”.

This year, however, is different on so many levels with lots of life changes and a global pandemic in an election year. If anyone had written the reality of what we’re living through and submitted it to a publisher, the dystopian novel would have been rejected as metafiction. But this is our reality…The Manchurian Candidate meets Contagion with a dashes of The Hunger Games, The Handmaid’s Tale, Animal Farm, and The Day After Tomorrow thrown in for good measure. There’s A LOT going on.

Will I be able to focus on writing 50,000 words starting tomorrow? I can’t even focus long enough to read a book these days. I watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix recently and it’s no surprise. Over the past 10 years as social media has permeated our lives, it has taken over the time we used to use for creating, reading, and other hobbies.

Once the pandemic hit, I found myself constantly seeking covid news updates. Then there were hurricanes hitting the Florida coast, out of control wildfires down the West Coast, and tornados in the Midwest…oh, and killer hornets (who had that on their 2020 bingo card!). As the insanity of this election cycle reaches a fevered pitch and Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations, and death are spiking yet again around the country, I find myself doomscrolling, obsessively searching Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for news and information. More to write about on that subject but drives the point home that I need to set social media limits so I have time to do things that feed my soul.

“Winning” (writing those 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo) this year will be a stretch, but I’m going to consider it an escape from reality. I haven’t been writing so however many words I write will be more than I have been…and that will be a win in my book.

Writing Fiction, NaNoWriMo Style

2019-NaNo-Winner-BadgeNaNoWriMo 2019 is a wrap and it was oh so very different from last year’s win on many levels.

First, last year I was a NaNo Rebel because I wrote memoir. I knew what the story was (or so I thought), and didn’t have to make up anything. This year, I tried writing fiction and I finished my shitty rough draft with 50,373 words. Since non-fiction has always been my go-to, this month has totally been out of my comfort zone, which was the point. Blogging provided my non-fiction, real life outlet and I was surprised by how much grief dominated my posts this month. The fiction I wrote, on the other hand, was more about resilience and the power of love. Interesting.

NaNo-2019-Daily-Word-Count-Deb-SinnessSecond, last year as a first time  participant, I didn’t know whether or not I could really do it because 50K is a hella lot of words. I knew I’d need the support of the local Lansing NaNo group for inspiration. With their write-ins, I got a head start on my word count and never looked back. This year, I had a death in the family so I only participated in one local write-in. There were six days I wrote less than 500 words a day, and two days I wrote nothing at all. But I knew because I had finished and ‘won’ last year, I could do it. So I kept at it, stringing one word after another, no matter how much of a slog it became.

Third, these fictional characters have a mind all their own. That surprised me, never having written fiction before. I mean, it was my fingers doing the typing but what was coming from my brain through my fingers seemed to come from nowhere. That’s some magical shit right there.

Fourth, you know how when you find a great book to read that can’t put down and you have to stay up until 2 AM reading because you want to know how it ends…only to be disappointed because the air came out of the tires at the very end? Yeah, that’s a little how I feel about my shitty rough draft. But then again, I’m a recovering perfectionist, my goal was to hit 50K words, and I wanted to write “The End,” so there’s that.

Which brings me to my final point. I hate to admit it, but as an INFJ, I’m a pantser. It seems like in every other area of my life, I’m a planner. As much as I’ve tried to plot and outline my ideas, my brain just doesn’t seem to work that way with writing; I have to write my way in to figure it out.

So today is the final day of National Novel Writing Month and I came in just under the wire, whew! How was your month? Whether you hit 50K words, or just wrote your first sentence by overcoming the fear of putting words on the page, celebrate your progress. It’s more than we started the month with. After all writing, as in life, is not just about the destination. It’s about enjoying and celebrating the journey.

A Sprint to the NaNoWriMo Finish Line

NaNo19_40K

Thanks to a cancelled meeting this evening, I’m over the 40K mark and sprinting to the NaNoWriMo finish line in five days.

On this day last year, I was celebrating my first National Novel Writing Month win. Between writing fiction this year and dealing with a fair amount of personal stuff, the month has been a challenge.

I’ve got to average around 2K words a day to make it. Come hell or high water, I’m going to do it. Good thing we don’t have any big Thanksgiving Day plans.

NaNoWriMo Eve or NaNoWeen

I started this blog on November 3rd, 2018 which was Day 3 of National Novel Writing Month. Held every November for the past 20 years, NaNoWriMo started when founder Chris Baty challenged a few of his Bay Area friends to write 50,000 words in a month. It’s become an annual tradition with writers around the world.

According to Wikipedia, 600 NaNoWriMo novels have been published through traditional and smaller publishers, or through self publishing. One of the most notable was Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen.

I had no idea if I could actually write that many words in a month, but I had been wanting to write the memoir I wanted to read when I came out at 56. As a NaNo Rebel (meaning I was not writing fiction), I wrote a hot mess of a rough draft weighing in a 51,473 words. I’ve worked on my rough draft over the course of the year with the help of teachers and workshop participants. It’s still a work in progress.

For this year’s NaNoWriMo, I’m writing fiction. I’ve only written one short fictional vignette as an online assignment 20 years ago, and I was surprised by the character that showed up and what they said. I’m hoping for the same experience because during this NaNo prep month, I have neither outline nor character development, and I’ve changed my story four times. I’ll totally be flying by the seat of my pants, or in NaNoSpeak, “pantsing.”

Good luck to all the Wrimos out there, and Write. On!

 

NaNoWriMo…By The Numbers

$969K Funds raised by non-profit NaNoWriMo
51,473 Words I wrote to “Win” NaNoWriMo
2,068 Words I wrote for my new Blog
1,715 Average number of words per day I wrote
302 Twitter Followers
175 Tweets I sent
147 Facebook Followers
$125 Donation I made to NaNoWriMo.org
104 Blog Visitors
9 Blog Posts
6 Blog Followers
$0 Cost to Join NaNoWriMo

Experience + Community = Priceless

Twitterpated Wrimo

First TweetOne of the highlights of participating in NaNoWriMo has been connecting with the amazing Twitter writing community. I was an early adopter of Twitter back in my real estate days, but lately I checked it only for breaking news. Once I signed up for NaNoWriMo, I set up my new account and retweeted NaNoPrep advice for my first tweet.

NDay 1 Tweetever having done NaNoWriMo before, I sought out and retweeted inspiration. After finishing my first day of writing on November 1st, I felt brave enough to put my intention for this month out there for the world to see. I wanted to write the book I couldn’t find when I was searching for answers.

Then I found myself encouraging other writers, posting helpful articles I found, tweeting about awesome podcasts, and answering writing prompts. On Day 7 I responded about why this work in progress is important to me saying “I had a hard time relating to books about coming out later in the life. If my work can help ease the mind of another in the same circumstance, they will know they’re not alone.”

Day 25 Tweet When I needed motivation, I could usually find it using the #NaNoCoach hashtag. When I needed inspiration, a quick look through my timeline was all it took.

Throughout the month I saw a lot of writers post a character visualization of their work in progress. Since I’m a NaNoRebel and writing a memoir, I thought it was something that didn’t apply to me. On the 25th, I threw caution and fear to the wind and posted my dream of how I would cast the movie of my memoir.

My memoir may never see the light of day nor have a movie made, but a girl’s gotta dream.

Thank you my Twitter writing brothers and sisters for welcoming this newbie in the fold. This month began as an experiment in what might be possible, and ends in a new place to call home.

 

The NaNoWriMo Wind Down

In a little more than 48 hours, National Novel Writing Month 2018 will officially wrap.

When I first heard of NaNoWriMo, I thought I might be a little crazy to try. Before I jumped in, I read the 8 Best-Selling Books Written During NaNoWriMo That Show You It Can Be Done and thought if the authors of books like “Water for Elephants” and “The Night Circus” started them during NaNoWriMo, what could giving it a shot hurt. I threw caution to the wind, suspending judgment, ditching my inner critic, and trusting the process of spewing words on the page with wild abandon.

justina_ireland-1I wrote every day. During the weekdays got up at 3:30 AM to write before work at 5:30 AM, then once I got home I’d keep writing until I had at least 1,667 words a day. I did word sprints at local NaNoWriMo sponsored write-ins and on their website.

Since my shitty first draft was all over the place, I knew there were holes to address but there is no way I could tell you what they were. In fact, once I reached 51,473 words and wrote The End on November 23rd, I honestly couldn’t tell you what I did or didn’t write. It was a blur. At that point, it didn’t matter…I was a “Winner”.

I’ve spent this week reading and studying memoir, completed an introductory webinar called Memoirama: Everything You Need To Know To Write Memoir, and I’ve read through a few of my pages. It is a hot mess, but it’s not as bad as I had feared.

I’ve learned a lot this month, and I have a lot to learn and grow as a writer. NaNoWriMo has shown me I’ve got the commitment and discipline for butt-in-chair-time to do the work, and that my friend is half the battle.

The End…and New Beginnings

The-End.jpg

After I broke the 50K NaNoWriMo barrier to claim my Winner’s Certificate on Friday the 23rd, I thought I’d continue writing though the end of November to fill in some missing pieces of the story. Today after writing the 250 words which concluded the journey, I wrote “The End”.

I had an odd sense of finality, like even if I wanted to write more,  the story was wrapped up. I also know The End is just the beginning of trying to make sense of this total pantser memoir that makes a jackrabbit look like he’s hopped up on some good stuff.

Time to study some of my favorite memoirs and marinate on how exactly I want mine to be structured. Writers have talked about revising being their favorite part so I’m hoping my Viking creative alter ego “Freya The Fearless” takes over from here. Cheers, or as Freya would say, Skol!

A NaNoWriMo 2018 Finisher

NaNo18-Winners-Cert

I’m officially a NaNoWriMo 2018 “Winner”, meaning I’ve fulfilled the goal of writing 50,000 words. This hot mess of a shitty first draft is not fit to be read by any other eyes but mine, but I’ll continue working on it until I write The End. Then I’ll start a new revision adventure and hope I can make heads or tails out of this unwieldy SFD beast.

To all the Wrimos still out there writing away, keep it up…you’ve got this!