It is not an undertaking for the faint of heart.
I have a long and complicated relationship with NaNoWriMo that includes one “win” of 50,146 words in 2009 (my virgin year), one failed attempt in 2012 (which I blamed on Larry Brooks), and lots of arguing with myself.This year, I wasn’t even considering participating in the 30-day writing slog until a long-time online friend and fellow writer/NaNoWriMo-er (who also happens to be a fierce mama and a gorgeous unicorn, and who will remain unnamed) sent me a seemingly innocent Facebook message that said only, “NaNoWriMo, Darling!” and was punctuated by a jack-o-lantern emoji.
What can I say? She had me at NaNoWriMo.
I haven’t had
much any time for fiction practice lately, and the lack of that particular creative outlet has left me a little despondent … a little what’s-it-all-about-alfie. I needed a project. I needed a project that was just for me – all mine.
So, I logged into the NaNoWriMo site and made it official by “creating” my 2016 novel. The working title is The Firefly Cafe. It’s the same title I used in 2012, but the story has been evolving in my head. While my inner critic, doubter, and party pooper have combined forces to bombard me with more than the usual litany of excuses (and valid reasons) to give up before I’ve even begun, I’m going to do my best to ignore them and just go for it. I’m not making any promises. I’m just going to see where this takes me.
Happily, the first stop on my 2016 NaNoWriMo journey was a happy one. Inspired by my friend’s invitation, I spent my daughter’s half-hour riding lesson scribbling story ideas and questions in a notebook. While my daughter popped over fences on her favorite school pony, I was sketching out a storyline and asking myself questions about character motivations and possible plot twists. I was remembering what it felt like to put my imagination to good use, and it felt good.
My resolve was slightly shaken later in the evening when I read Guy Bergstrom’s post about why NaNoWriMo is “noble nuttiness.” (Tilting at windmills, anyone?) But, then I was encouraged by this N(entirely)SFW post from the inimitable Chuck Wendig about, in his words, “the pure f-ing joy of getting it all wrong.”
And then I meandered over to the NaNoWriMo press page and came across this little tidbit:
Over 250 NaNoWriMo novels have been traditionally published. They include Sara Gruen’sWater for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Hugh Howey’s Wool, Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Jason Hough’s The Darwin Elevator, and Marissa Meyer’s Cinder. See a full list of our published authors.
How’s that for inspiration? Sure, the odds are against you, but these people proved that it’s not impossible to at least get a working draft completed in thirty days. (Granted, they may have been prepping for months – years even – but, maybe not.)
Finally, I dove into the Pep Talk archives on the NaNoWriMo site and read a lovely and kickass piece from Catherynne Valente, which included this little gem:
Write something true. Write something frightening. Write something close to the bone. You are on this planet to tell the story of what you saw here. What you heard. What you felt. What you learned. Any effort spent in that pursuit cannot be wasted. Any way that you can tell that story more truly, more vividly, more you-ly, is the right way.
So holler. Tell it loud and tell it bright and tell it slant and tell it bold. Tell it with space whales and silent films or tell it with quiet desperation or tell it with war or tell it with dragons or tell it with tall ships or tell it with divorce in the suburbs or tell it with dancing skeletons and a kraken in the wings.
Tell it fast before you get scared and silence yourself. You’ll never wish you’d held back a little more.
I’ll leave you with that.
But, if you happen to be playing along in NaNoWriMo land, look me up. You can never have too many writing buddies.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.