Winner’s Circle

This morning, my husband I took our kids to a local Turkey Trot. It was the first time our four-year-old ran an official race (and the first time the younger one got to come along for the ride). It was a mile, which is a lot when you’re about three feet tall. Something like four minutes in, he told me, “Mommy, this is a long race!” My husband and I looked at each other. Kid had no idea.


For the next fifteen minutes, we walked and ran and ran and walked at his pace. Please keep in mind that it was thirty-two degrees outside. At one point he was talking a lot about when we were going to get to the end. We told him to focus on enjoying the running and not worry about the end; we would get there when it was time.


Sooner than I expected, the finish line was in sight. He wanted to walk, but we encouraged him to at least run through the finish line. We mentioned the Oreos we’d seen there earlier as motivation, and that seemed to help—again, thirty-two degrees. The smile on his face when he ran through the gate was priceless. We each received a little white ribbon as a token of our accomplishment. We walked to the aforementioned Oreo station, and he said, “Mommy, I didn’t think I was going to win, but I did!” We came in just about last, but he didn’t notice. He didn’t care. He had run his race, and that was what mattered.


Until tonight, I didn’t understand why those who completed National Novel Writing Month were called winners. Didn’t just one person win a race, a game, a challenge?


But then I hit 50K (actually a little over to make up for any discrepancy in my word processor’s word count). I submitted my novel and had my count validated. And I felt, for real, like a winner.


So now, my husband is making me a latte. Celebratory cookies are ready and waiting. And I am so grateful for the challenge of NaNoWriMo, for everyone who cheered me on along the way, and for the rough draft I thought would take five years to write, but was completed in a mere four weeks.


A winner, indeed!


NaNo Progress Report

We are sixty percent of the way through the month of November. Isn’t that an odd way to say it? It’s probably not the best way to gauge how far along I should be, considering that I am not planning to write every day, but there it is.


I started off strong—over five thousand words on my first day of writing! What a boon that was in making this thing work. It gave me room to shut down the computer early on a couple of nights when I was literally falling asleep while typing. If I can keep on target for the next less-than-two weeks, I will easily make my goal of 33,750 words. If I can step it up a little, I will make it to 50K.


What’s ultimately more important than word count is that I am making progress in figuring out where this novel is going, what’s happening, and, although to a lesser extent, who these people are.


The last time I tried NaNo, I had a figuratively sketchy idea of what the novel would entail. There was no outline; I’m not sure I had written more than a few pages of anything related before diving in. There isn’t an outline, per se, this time either, but I’ve been thinking about this novel for what might be close to a year. And I’ve been dying to know what happens (that’s a bit of a pun, as death plays a large role). That, coupled with the fact that I am due with another child on March 1, has upped the ante on getting some form of this thing on the page.


Still, last night, I found it tough to get into the work. There are things I know I need to edit out and rewrite. Plot points that need to trade places. But there’s no time for that. There’s more that needs to be written—even if it will all be deleted next month—first, and NaNo is helping me to get that done in a way I think I would struggle to do on my own.


There are times I want to make excuses. My grandmother has been sick. I’m toliet training my youngest. I’d almost rather watch another episode of The Biggest Loser. I’m pregnant and tired! My other novel was rejected by an editor I was very much hoping to work with (albeit for a very sound reason) the first week of the month.


But the camaraderie I experienced at the Kick-Off Party I attended and the prospect of “winning” NaNo are stronger. Last night, in a moment of Web-surfing weakness, I discovered that my agency’s revamped website had launched, and there I was, on the author page. There isn’t a title or a publishing house by my name. Yet. But I believe there will be.


Not, however, until I get back to work.

NaNo, Day One

So here’s the truth: NaNo, Day One was extraordinarily successful in this neck of the proverbial woods. I do not say this to boast; I say this because I am kind of in shock.


I happened to be up at midnight last night, and thought I might as well write a few lines. Getting hyped for the start in the last few days, I’ve had some things in mind that I committed to e-paper in the loosest terms possible, as not to break the rules. In the time I had before summoned by a sleepy, but awake child, I managed 455 words. A nice start, I thought.


I slept some and after taking the car in for service, made it to a library nearby for a regional Kick-Off party. One relatively young guy was doing NaNo for the twelfth time! Another had a typewriter. Another two were writing by hand.


We had a couple of word sprints—fifteen minutes in which everyone writes as much as possible. Any time I’m writing this month, it’s going to be writing as much as possible! After winning the first one (the only sprint I will ever win), I kept my headphones on and continued to pump out stuff that wasn’t total drivel . . . I don’t think.


Contrary to my plan, I ended up starting the novel over at the beginning, and I’m glad I did. I’ve written the start so many times, it was good to have a fresh take at it, without trying to manipulate something I’d written previously. There’s still a huge deal of editing to tackle later, but I’m into the story faster than I have been on previous drafts, and I can see where the next few days of writing, at least, might be going.


I ended up leaving the library because I was feeling more productive than social. I reconvened at a Panera for about an hour, before heading back home. I may try a “Write In” next weekend, which is a quiet work session. It was fun to be with people embarking on the same challenge. I heard both the success stories of years past and, for others, the couple of years it took to finally win.


NaNo is a beautiful thing in this sense. It gets people writing, it builds community, it encourages us to tell our stories, whatever they may be. As long as it doesn’t make me totally nuts over the next four weeks, I’m glad I’m doing it.


Oh, and my word count today? 5,159. Okay, two words were my name. One was “by.” And four were the title. But still, pretty good, I think. We’ll see what the rest of the week brings.


Happy writing!