This isn’t the blog post I had planned to write for this NaNoWriMo month. I wanted to get a jump on my writing early in the month, instead I received a late night call about the unexpected death of a family member, earily similar to the call I received three years earlier about the brother of the deceased.
Life is like that. We have plans, then life makes other plans for us.
Our family has experienced a lot of loss in the past three years, and dealing with death is never easy especially when it seems random and unexpected. In death as in writing, we search for meaning. We mine our memories and remember the good times, the earlier years, the days of innocence.
The truth is, none of us are getting out of this life alive. That doesn’t make anyone’s passing any easier for those of us left behind. Death sucks.
Needless to say, I’m way behind in my writing goals this month, but that’s okay. I was where I needed to be ~ with my family, mourning an unexpected loss. But I refuse to concede NaNoWriMo defeat so I’ll keep plodding along, stringing one word after another and I’ll be happy with however many I end writing, because it will be more than what I started the month with.
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!
||Funds raised by non-profit NaNoWriMo
||Words I wrote to “Win” NaNoWriMo
||Words I wrote for my new Blog
||Average number of words per day I wrote
||Tweets I sent
||Donation I made to NaNoWriMo.org
||Cost to Join NaNoWriMo
Experience + Community = Priceless
One 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.
Never 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.”
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.
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.
I 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.
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!
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!