“National Novel Writing Month, shortened as NaNoWriMo (na-noh-RY-moh), is an annual internet-based creative writing project that takes place every November. NaNoWriMo challenges participants to write 50,000 words of a new novel between November 1 and 30.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Novel_Writing_Month
In 2013 I made a definitive decision, I was going to join and complete NaNoWriMo. The year had been mostly dedicated to editing, more honestly life in general, so I hadn’t written as much new material as I’d like. With NaNoWriMo looming before me, it was time to put all editing aside and get down and dirty with my current project Arcadia.
But there was a problem, according to the rules one isn’t supposed to work on a current project, but rather a brand spanking new project. Not only that, but in traditional human style it wasn’t until the day before NaNoWriMo started that I read the rules. I had less than day and I didn’t have a plot, a character, or an idea. I didn’t have a whisper of an idea.
At this point my brain was equivalent to a fifteen year old girl trying to find the perfect shirt from her own collection. I’m opening every drawer, throwing clothes out of the closest, diving underneath the bed only to be left empty handed – I have nothing to wear!
But I did. I did have a shirt in the back of the closet just waiting for me, but I didn’t think it was good enough. No matter how many others I tried on, part of me knew it was really that shirt I should wear. For whatever reason unbeknownst to my adolescent mind, I didn’t want to admit it. With every shirt I owned piled up on my bed, I had to admit there was only one shirt left. It was new, and had potential, but I couldn’t tell if it was cool. I had no choice, it would have to work.
On day one of NaNoWriMo I was embarking on a project that I was convinced would fall short of 50,000 words, or if it didn’t it would certainly suck. This is where I send kudos to my husband, he reminded me “but you’ll have a novel written and that’s all that matters.” That was my first lesson, “don’t let your fears dictate the outcome.”
Within the first week, I fell behind. And because I fell behind I was spending as much time worrying about math as I was words. “Okay, if write X amount of words for the next five days then I’ll be on target. Or I can just write an extra X amount of words every day to still reach my goal.” And then I fell behind some more and some more until I almost – no wait I’m lying to you – I did think it was impossible. Lesson #2, “Nothing’s impossible.” And because I adore Audrey Hepburn I’ll use her words, “Even the word itself says I’m Possible.”
Not only was there the serious crime of falling behind, but I still had no idea where the book was going. I had a half-baked plot, an in-the-wind ending and a main character that didn’t fit the motive. I needed to get the plot headed in a direction of an ending worth reading, but when I sat down at my laptop I only kinda knew where I wanted it to go, and even worse, I didn’t know how to get there. One particular day after staring at the screen for about 30 minutes, I finally realized my lesson #3, start with what you know. I started typing the only idea I had and the entire world opened before me. Basically, I had thought I needed to follow the yellow brick road to the hot air balloon, when really I only needed the shoes I was already wearing.
But also by staring at a blank screen with blank ideas and a blank expression on my face, I learned two things. Lesson #4, you don’t have to be in some ‘writing mood’ to write, because the most important is, Lesson #5 Just Write.
In November of 2013 I wrote the novel Until Eli. It was 50,186 words and though it might take a while to get published, it has potential. It’s only the second book I’ve ever written, but the growth in talent between the two is undeniable. I know people in my life wonder when I’ll finally get published, I wonder that too. But for me, right now in this moment, I have written two novels. I’ve learned so much. I’m getting somewhere. And maybe, just maybe, one day you’ll cuddle up with a blanket or in your bed and read a novel with the name J. M. Tompkins on the spine.
© 2014 J. M. Tompkins