A Revised NaNoWriMo . . . Is That Even a Thing?

My first and only attempt at National Novel Writing Month was four years ago, when my first son was just two months old. I only made it to 25,000 words before all I could think of to do with my characters was kill them off. And it wasn’t the kind of book in which you’d expect anything like that to happen.

 

This year, I’m finding a bunch of different reasons to give it another shot, the main one being: I want to figure out where this novel I’m working on is going!

 

So I’m cheating a little bit. I’m continuing a work in progress, and have set myself a lesser goal of 33,750 words. My count was calculated by the number of sessions I expect to complete and the number of words I have proven I can put together in that duration.

 

There’s a part of me that’s hoping I’ll exceed expectations and make it to 50K, but I have to hold that piece at bay. The objective needs to be to get the words on the page to figure out what’s next. I’d be happy if, at the end of the month, I simply had a real, workable outline of the full novel—even if it means throwing out the majority of the pages I’ll produce. I mean, a real, workable manuscript would be better, but again, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

 

Because I’ve set my expectations realistically, I’m getting really psyched for the month to begin. I have an “in theory” calendar and an “in practice” calendar printed and annotated to mark my progress. I also have a week’s worth of prompts to get me started (I expect to do an hour and a half of free writing each night, not necessarily in the order of a narrative arc). My workspace is clear and waiting. Now all that awaits is the clock striking midnight.

 

Or the clock striking noon. There’s something romantic about starting at midnight, but I’m not sure it’s enough to make me do it!

 

Stay tuned for what I hope to be shorter, but more frequent posts with word counts.

 

Are you embarking on the NaNoWriMo challenge as well? Let’s be buddies! Find me as 34Kforthewin. Good luck!

 

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The Best Part of Writing a Novel Is Realizing You CAN Write a Novel

After weeks of working on nonfiction pieces, a picture book, and toying with an idea for a YA novel, I am diving back into a daunting/exhilarating adult novel.

 

I am writing without editing, and thus racking up a word count that looks more impressive than I’m sure this first draft text is. I still don’t quite know where this piece is going, but I know that it’s going somewhere.

 

Recently, one of my best friends ran her first marathon. Because I couldn’t be there, states and states away, to cheer her on, I sent her a care package papered with motivational quotes found on the ever-inspiring Pinterest. Some of them, I realized in the midst of my last writing session, can apply as much to novel writing (or any other seemingly insurmountable goal) as they can to marathon training.

 

A few choice picks:

 

  • Will it be easy? Nope. Will it be worth it? Absolutely.

 

  • You will want to stop. Don’t.

 

  • There is no force equal to that of a determined woman.

 

  • There will be days when you don’t know whether you can run a marathon, but there will be a lifetime knowing that you have.

 

 

And my favorite:

 

  • The most beautiful moment in marathon training is the transition from wondering if you can . . . to knowing you will.

 

I’m at the place where I know I can do this. I know I can write and edit a novel. There is no room for doubt; really, there is never room for doubt. And while I realize the majority of what I’ve written thus far will not make it to the final draft, every word is a step closer. Plus, even when it’s hard, it’s a heck of a lot of fun along the way.

Distractions Away, Latte on Hand

Lately the hardest part of writing for me has been using the time I have well. Okay, so maybe not just lately. Maybe that’s always a challenge.

 

There are a million things I could do, sitting in front of my computer, alone, in a study room at my local library. I tend to start my writing sessions with lunch or a mid-morning snack, so there is an accepted settling-in time. But once the food is away, it can be like jumping into a giant pool without checking the water temperature. (This is a bad analogy for those more adventurous than myself.)

 

Once you get in though, it’s worth it, isn’t it? Time flies by and before you know it, the lights are turning off in the library and it’s time to head back home. It’s when I force myself to jump in and stay in that I get the best results, and usually it’s a high that lasts for a couple of days.

 

With that, then, it’s time for me to jump in to this week’s work! Happy writing, friends!

 

P.S. Anyone out there considering NaNoWriMo this year? I’m thinking of using it to make progress on my current WIP—not exactly the point, but 50,000 words is enough of a goal for me. I’d love some company!

The Contractor’s Story

Our house is undergoing a renovation right now (thus the unexplained hiatus here). In addition to doing beautiful and timely work, our contractor gave me an insight on the power of story.

 

Somehow we got to talking about tools we use to remember things. He told me about a conference he attended that involved a speaker/magician of some sort. I promise this is relevant to novel writing.

 

The speaker called on various audience members to generate a list of a dozen random items. Then he worked them into a story, made up on the spot. At the end of the presentation, he asked the audience to try to remember as many of the previously unrelated items as possible. They easily recalled the majority of them.

 

Story is humans’ way of relating, of remembering, of reflecting, of being all the beautiful things we are as human beings. And that makes it a worthy endeavor for me.

Mr. Scieszka and the Coffee Shop

The first Saturday morning I left our apartment to dedicate a block of time to writing, I simply hoped to find a seat at the coffee shop near an electrical outlet.

 

I arrived at the Starbucks on 7th Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn, some time around ten am. All week, I’d been looking forward to this time to make some progress on the novel I’d been working on here and there. I stayed at home with our then-toddler, so being out in the world without a diaper bad was something to get excited about in itself.

 

As I waited in line to order my latte, I thought I recognized a man a customer or two behind me, from work. He wouldn’t remember a lowly editorial assistant who had left eighteen months before. I wanted to be certain it was really him before I approached him.

 

The Red Wings hat was my first clue. His Midwestern accent was number two. And finally, for ultimate confirmation, he gave the barista his first name, as common as it is: Jon.

 

Jon Scieszka. Oh my goodness.

 

Why was no one else fawning like I was? Had they not grown up with The Stinky Cheese Man? Did they have any idea what they were missing? The man is pure genius.

 

I figured I had nothing to lose, apart from my poise. I waited somewhat patiently until his transaction was complete.

 

“Excuse me,” I said. “I think we met briefly when I worked at Simon & Schuster.” It was a bunch of us having pizza I would never forget and Scieszka would probably never remember.

 

He didn’t pretend to remember my name, but he spoke with me as if he’d run into an old friend. Somehow we got to talking about what I was doing there. I downplayed my work in progress, because, hello, former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature here. But he was nothing but encouraging. He told me how he and Mo Willems were recently talking about how hard their work was. Then they realized, wait a minute, this work is awesome. And I don’t think he was talking about the fame or the millions of copies his books have sold. He just meant he gets to write every day, and that is such a gift.

 

His attitude was contagious, and I got the sense that he believed in me simply because I was out there, giving it a shot.

 

I had a productive session that morning (I found an electrical outlet to boot), and I went home on a creative high.

 

The memory of that morning continues to bring me up when I get discouraged. Scieszka’s joy was in the act of writing, of telling a story, and he welcomed me with a camaraderie I would not have dared to suggest myself.

 

So if I didn’t say it then—and I may have been too starstruck—thank you, Mr. Scieszka for helping me be the writer I want to be.