Skip to content

On Needing to Write: My First NaNoWriMo

Last week I haunted you all with threats of the pending National Novel Writing Month, stating a little prematurely that “Next month, you’re going to write a novel.” I watched (and even commented on) your public reactions to that claim, and some of you were rightly terrified at the time investment looming oh-so-near.

Others of you, though, shivered with anticipation. Especially Courtney, who’s said in several ways and in several venues now that she can barely wait for November to get here.

For my part, I spend about equal time in both camps. That’s actually how I’ve felt every fall for four years now.

That first year, when I challenged Dad and Heather to write their novels, I knew I had to be in the mix with them. Obviously I had to be. Not only that, I had to set a good example.

I had to show them this thing was doable — even as I was preparing pep talks and writing exercises and emails that ended up being precursors to Unstressed Syllables writing articles. And, in case you don’t remember last week’s story with perfect clarity, that was the same year I’d already written 100,000 words over the summer and finished up two long-languishing novels.

I had a feeling, as November approached, that I would probably be better off sitting it out. I could point to June and July as ample evidence it was doable, and I could probably do a better job coaching if I wasn’t so distracted with my own project. Right?

As a matter of fact, I settled on that as my final decision. I wouldn’t write anything in November. I told them both that, gave them my defense — partly out of feat I’d already done more writing in one year than the human body could handle, so if I even tried…I might find that the well was already dry again. And I couldn’t handle another drought.

When I got to work on their prewriting assignments, though, I needed to tell them how much time to allot to each. I needed to know what was clear, and what needed explanation.

So I wrote up some assignments — make up character descriptions for five characters, draft a mock ToC for your unwritten novel, figure out the big arc of your Conflict Resolution Cycle. And I then I ran through each of them with what I knew would eventually be my next novel, Sleeping Kings: The Shepherd, which was the sequel to one of the two I’d finished that summer.

And somewhere in the middle of that, I realized I had to do it. I had to write. Not only that…early in October, scribbling down character backstory, I found myself absolutely on fire to get started writing right then.

I didn’t. I pushed down the urge, buried myself in other work (and, of course, I had plenty). I didn’t even tell my dad and sister that I’d changed my mind. But as I worked through my own prewriting exercises, I knew for a fact I was going to write in November.

And I did. Hah! When November hit me, I hit right back, and that need to write never once abated. After nearly four years of not writing, I couldn’t hold myself back.

I broke 50,000 words on Thursday, November 15, and on the afternoon of the 30th I typed “The End” as words number 121,957 and 121,958. My first NaNoWriMo was also my best (so far, anyway), and I’ve been chasing that hunger ever since.

Comments are closed.