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On NaNoWriMo: Next Month, You’re Going to Write a Novel

I’ve talked before about my miserable years in Tulsa, and how they coincided with my failed efforts to shop my novel to publishers. Essentially, I spent my first year out of college rewriting Taming Fire, and then my second year shopping it around.

Now, while I was shopping that novel, I did what every writer should and started on a new book. In fact, I started on two: King Jason’s War and Sleeping Kings: The Wolf. Both were pretty ambitious projects in their own ways, and both embodied ideas I’d been playing with for several years.

And then, as my efforts to land a publisher ground to a world-shattering halt, the books did the same thing. That was the beginning of a nearly four-year writing drought.

I didn’t write a thing. Well…maybe some self-pitying blog posts here and there, a bitter poem or two, but nothing useful. I kept going back to both books, every six months or so, and kept giving up again. For four years, I wasn’t a writer.

It drove me nuts. It broke my heart that I’d been calling myself a serious writer for at least a decade, and all I had to show for it was one book. One book that had been roundly declared insufficient, even.

It took some outside forces, getting my life in order, but I finally got back to a point where I could write in June of 2007, and it was glorious. It two short months, I blew through a hundred thousand words, finishing both of my languishing works-in-progress in satisfying style, and tripling the size of my portfolio in a single summer.

After that, I was on top of the world. I was a writer again. I was me again. And I knew, without a doubt, that I could do anything in the world.

Now…for as long as I can remember, my dad has been a storyteller. I know I’ve mentioned that before. And through all that decade that I called myself a writer, I constantly had to put up with him praising me for the things I’d accomplished (even when I was beating myself up daily for the things I hadn’t).

It was something near and dear to his heart, though. My dad had stories worth telling, but he knew he wasn’t a writer. Even as I was hating myself for not writing the stories in my head because I knew I should be, Dad spent a lot of the same years desperately wishing he could.

And whenever we talked about it, I told him he was silly. Of course he could write. All he had to do was…well, do it. Just sit down and write. That’s really all it takes to be a novelist.

Now, if you want to be good, if you want people to take you seriously, you’ve got to write lots and you’ve got polish them until they shine. If you want to write a book, though, it’s a simple matter of coming up with an idea, and then putting words on paper.

Dad could never find the nerve, though. For years we discussed his incredible story ideas, but I couldn’t get him to commit any of them to paper. And then, in that same fateful summer, I was discussing all this with my older sister — frustrated that Dad had to be so frustrated, even as I was finally finding my pace again — when she started defending him.

“It’s not that easy,” she said. “I know you think it is, because you’ve been doing this all your life, but it’s really hard to write a novel when you’re not a writer. I mean, I understand. I’ve been dreaming of writing this story for nearly a year now….”

And, to be perfectly honest, I stopped listening at that point. I couldn’t really pay attention, even if I’d wanted to. My mind was racing.

I’d written two novels in one summer. I was on fire. Nothing in the world could stop me, and I wasn’t about to let it stop my family, either. I started making plans.

I had a bit of research to do, and a little bit of lesson-planning, but mostly it all came together in those first few moments. I took my time, though — figured out all the details, and then on the first day of October, I put my plan into motion. I sat down at my computer and started a new email addressed to Dad and Heather.

It said, simply enough,

Next month, you’re going to write a novel.

And, wouldn’t you know it? They did. You can, too.

It’s time to talk about NaNoWriMo.

4 Responses to “On NaNoWriMo: Next Month, You’re Going to Write a Novel”

  1. A four-year near drought? Wow, I’m shocked. I can’t imagine it. Needless to say, you aren’t that person anymore. 🙂

  2. Courtney Cantrell says:

    Yay! NANOWRIMO!!! Woo-hoo!!! I’m so excited that I can’t stop using exclamation marks!!! 😀

  3. I’m excited, too. Nervous, a tad scared, but mostly INSANELY excited. 🙂

    • Courtney Cantrell says:

      Oh, I get nervous and scared every year too. But the insane part takes over. And that’s what enables me to get excited. 😀