I have known about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for several years. For those of you who don’t know, it is a thing that happens every November where writers try and write 50,000 words in a month. A couple of years ago, I even signed up on the website, but each year I have made an excuse for not jumping on the bandwagon and getting some words down. Usually, the excuse was – I don’t have enough time. Which is a total load of crap. There is always time, some moment to put some words on the page. Even one sentence is better than no words at all.
This year, after a crazy summer that destroyed my writing groove, plans for finishing my novel Solidity by November 1st were quite thoroughly thwarted. As the end of October barreled into view, I found myself lamenting over another failed attempt to finish just one story. Even as my writing fell to the wayside, these characters still made appearances in my thoughts almost daily, sometimes even to the point I had to spend hours repeating what had transpired just to make sure I remembered it well enough to write it down when I had the chance. Owen, Lucian and Jera are certainly persistent. In fact, they are the most persistent characters I have ever written.
In the last week of October, a post about NaNoWriMo came across my Facebook feed. Or maybe a friend mentioned it. I honestly can’t remember. I have been in a slump lately, and for whatever reason, NaNoWriMo woke me up. I decided that I needed to do this for ME. Step back and focus on myself and my goals for a month. So, on the 27th, I logged on to NaNoWriMo and announced my novel. We have a pretty active group in Bozeman, and I jumped in head first, attending a weekend of Pre-Nano events where I met and several of the locals who had all been down this road several if not many times before. I can’t remember the last time I felt so alive and inspired.
I have never considered writing as a social experience. After all, it is mostly hanging out in your own head with characters no one else can see or hear. NaNoWriMo forever changed that perception. Even during the first couple of meetings where we just sat around (and talked a bit about cats – turns out that’s a pretty good ice breaker) I went home feeling like I could tackle the universe. On the first day of the month, I wrote 1,800 words. Which was more than I had written in probably the last three writing sessions combined. That in itself felt pretty good.
As the month drew on and I met with other local writers – people who are just as passionate about story telling as I am, people in all stages of their writing careers – I realized that I am not so alone in this dream. Surrounding myself with those who share my dream was inspiring in itself and as we moved through the month together, our stories grew. We held each other accountable, challenging one another to word-sprints and meeting at coffee shops for write-ins. We left trails of messages on Facebook as we we coordinated and participated in home-based write-ins. Because we all have a story (or two or three) to tell, and we all had that elusive goal to meet.
Once I committed to doing NaNoWriMo, it wasn’t difficult to keep going. The support system and inspiration from the other writers kept me as excited as the story I was writing. This project was the first time that I sat down and said, “I am doing this, no matter what. Writing first, everything else later.” I experienced waves of excitement, inspiration, dread, and guilt, all mixed together in a giant stew-pot of words and real life.
I only missed one day of writing out of 30 (I might have been achievement hunting a little bit… I blame the video games). That one day had set itself up to be a close one in the first place, and then it blew all possibility out of the water. Before NaNoWriMo, that one day and the associated disaster would have prevented me for writing for days, maybe weeks. But I didn’t stop. I got up the next morning and kept writing. I proved to myself that I can still do this, no matter what life throws at me.
November finished out at 56,000 words. I didn’t quite finish the story, but I met that goal and it felt amazing. I am so close to the end of Solidity. It will be the first novel manuscript I have ever finished – finally wrapping up a nearly twenty-year-old goal. The idea is frightening and invigorating. And I have NaNoWriMo to thank for it. I was blown away by the experience. I find myself excited to be writing again, and absolutely determined to keep going, to live my dream.
NaNoWriMo woke something in me I haven’t seen or felt in years. Combined with the friends I made during the month – who I much look forward to continuing this journey with outside of November – it was an amazing experience. I can’t wait for next year.