Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Waiting for December; How NaNoWriMo Stole My Life

To my faithful Waiting Room readers, first let me thank you. Second, let me apologize for my vast lack of posts in the last month. It seems my life, or at least my writing life, was sucked dry by NaNoWriMo.

Like many of you, I had never heard of National Novel Writing Month, lovingly dubbed NaNoWriMo, until one of my writer tweeps mentioned it on Twitter on October 29. A quick Google search landed me on the non-profit's home page
where I learned that;
"National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30."
"How fun would that be?" I said to my husband, who was sitting next to me on the couch, Googling his own November project. Since leaving my job in August due to health concerns, I felt that God was calling me to write and this seemed like the perfect way to give my writing chops a work-out. Fifty thousand words, thirty days; no problem.

Well, maybe there was one slight problem. I had no idea what in the heck to write about. ButI had two whole days to think about it before the clock started ticking. I mean, come on. I was a woman with no full time job for the first time in my life. What else did I have to do?

Turns out that October 30 and 31 are pretty well occupied with all things Halloween in a house with two small children, one of whom is in kindergarten and had her first big elementary school event, for which her costume had to be made using things we had at our house (hello duct tape!).

November 1; The writing begins. Not only do I have no plot, I have no ideas for a main character, a setting, or even a ge
nre of book. I call upon my Facebook friends for help.

Kristen Walker Escovedo Just signed up for the National Novel Writing Month ( Writing a 50k word novel by midnight November 30. Now I just need a plot, some characters, & a setting. Luckily the goal is not for it to be good, just to finish! Kind of like if I was running a marathon, only in this case, I probably won't be lying on the ground crying at the end.


Brad Fitzpatrick
Plot; a young man in search of the etch-a-sketch his papa bought him, and some kid stole. Characters are Blake, Zeus (a dog), Nurple, and Brianne. The setting is Cleveland, OH in 1983.
November 2 at 12:29am

Elizabeth Lopez Hatley
Cheerleaders.....need I say more?
November 2 at 5:47am ·

Greg Leetz
You can write my Autobiography.... Beer, Girls, and...... OK. Maybe you need to find someone else.
November 2 at 10:58am

Let's say Facebook was a bust. So, November 2 came and went and I was still without a plot, characters, setting, or genre, but I decided I should probably start writing. And I did. I wrote nearly 9,000 words (about a week's worth) before a story developed.

By that time I realized that my characterization of "How fun would that be?" was not entirely accurate. While some sessions were fun, others felt like the days your mom forced you to sit down and write thank you notes for ugly hand made sweaters your aunts from West Virginia sent you for your birthday while your friends were all riding their bikes outside on a perfect 74 degree sunny day.

A week's bout with bronchitis put me almost 8,000 words behind and a weekend visit from my dad and another from my best friend tempted me to get even farther off track Can't you see them now? All of your friends running through the sprinkler, eating red Popsicles and rolling down grassy hills while you are forced to read the entire dictionary? And not the small paperback copy. That big hardback copy that your mom uses for a step stool to reach the pitcher she keeps on top of the fridge at Thanksgiving. Hello my life in November.

Many late night into early morning hour writing sessions helped me stay in the hunt for the coveted PDF certificate printout that goes to "winners" if they finish by midnight on November 30th. But something else happened along the way. I actually started to like my book. My characters started to take shape and every day they surprised me. I never went into a writing session with a preconceived notion of what I was going to write about that day (which is pretty easy when you have no plot lined out), and I just let my characters live for a thousand words or two (depending on how long my 18 month old napped that day or how long I could keep my eyes pried open before I started accidentally writing my children's names into the book).

And on those days, it was fun again.

On November 29, after a seven hour marathon writing session, I typed my 50,202nd word and ended my first novel.

For now.

It is not in readable format, even for my husband, who keeps asking me when I'm going to take it to Kinkos and print it out so he can see what was so important that he and the kids had to eat PB & J for a month. I can't imagine how many comma splices, typos, and sentence fragments it contains. I haven't even read the whole thing from start to finish. During the last night of writing I realized I had inadvertently changed a character's name halfway through. Whoops! But I finished and I'm proud. And to any of my writer friends who gave up their November for

calendar,December 2009Image by hichako via Flickr

NaNoWriMo, I'm proud of you too, win, loose, or draw. Keep that book as a badge of honor, because contrary to popular belief, sometimes, we do need stinkin' badges.

Someday, after Santa makes his way down the chimney, I will go back and fix the comma splices and make sure my kids don't make cameo appearances, and I'll develop this little novella into an actual book.

But for now, I'm ready for December.


  1. Hope you post the finished product sometime in the new year!

  2. I'm proud of you for finishing your novel. For the record, I like PB&J and am still looking forward to reading a close-to-finished copy. It was cool to watch you get excited for the writing you were getting to do.

  3. I always knew we'd have a writer in the family. You've been writing beautifully since you were in about 1st grade and you made me cry when you brought home your story about a handicapped child. I am so proud of you - and I, too, am looking forward to reading the finished product. (mom)

  4. cdub ~ You can ask Richie, I love to share my finished products. My favorite part of writing is sharing!

    Richie ~ Thank you for all your support, for believing in me, for dealing with my late night crazy rants, and for letting me live my dream.

    Mom~ Thanks for being my first and biggest fan. I'll save you the first finished copy. Of course, I know you'll buy it at Half Priced Books later :)