The stories we have to tell — NaNoWriMo ’11

So here’s the thing. During National Novel Writing Month last year, I had this great idea for a story. I worked on it for a while, cobbling together pieces here and there, but I ultimately “lost” NaNoWriMo by not even getting halfway toward the 50,000 word goal. The year before that? Total failure. Though it was amazing time, my week-long trip to California completely derailed my attempts to write a book in a month.

I’ve gotten gun shy.

But I know it’s possible. This is my fifth year participating in NaNoWriMo. In 2007 and 2008, I cranked out books like nobody’s business, putting fingers to keyboard and flying through stories with breathless speed. I was super psyched to be a novelist, you see, and ecstatic that I had the capacity to create entire worlds. It was like playing God. And after years of writing poems and papers in college, just writing for writing’s sake was exhilarating.

But those projects were all abandoned, locked up tight on flash drives. Gathering metaphoric dust. Looking back on them now, I see how much my writing style has evolved — and those early projects? They’re . . . well, they’re just not good. Without redemption. A bit embarrassing, if I’m being honest.

As of Oct. 31, the night before NaNo was due to start, I hadn’t decided if I was committing to another year of writing debauchery. Did I have it in me to try again — and risk failing? How embarrassed would I be if I tried for the third year in a row to craft a book, then wound up with some piece of garbage I would bury deep on my hard drive?

But I’ve been thinking and thinking, plotting and scheming. And I’ve realized that, even if this latest attempt sucks — and even if I never finish at all — the greatest gift NaNo can give a writer is discipline, which is what pep talker Maureen Johnson is telling us. I’m used to writing on deadline at work, cranking out 500-word columns, but that’s nothing compared to the stamina writing a full-length novel requires.

I’ve changed and evolved and improved as a writer, and I know I have great paths yet to wander. I’m not at my peak. I’m still young and quick and maybe a little arrogant, as my hate-mail-writers are quick to point out, but that’s okay. Everything is, in fact, a learning experiment.

So I’m trying. I’m writing again. I’m vowing to myself that I will try to finish a novel — and that is enough.

I’m more than 12,000 words in and loving it. I’m scared and this book may be terrible, but that’s not what’s important at the moment. It’s just about getting the story out. I’ve begun scratching notes on slips of paper, keeping characters straight and developing their personalities. I’ve thought about conflicts and resolutions and all the things I love about the books I’ve read and cherished. I’ve thought about what makes a great heroine — and a great villain. I’ve thought about love lost and found. Most importantly, I’ve thought about the story I have to tell — the one that’s uniquely mine — and the pieces of it I can weave into something bigger.

We all have a story to tell. I believe that absolutely, unequivocally. I know with all my heart that is true.

I don’t know what I’m going to come up with — but it’ll be something.

And I hope someday I’ll get to share it with you.

EDIT: If anyone would like an extra writing buddy on the NaNo site, I’m megan_lynn. Looking forward to this grand adventure!

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12 thoughts on “The stories we have to tell — NaNoWriMo ’11

  1. I don’t think you can fail in participating in NaNoWriMo. I think that as long as you try to reach the goal then you succeed (unless you sign up and end up writing nothing… then maybe you can call it a failure). I see NaNoWriMo as a great opportunity to create an entire novel but more importantly the perfect opportunity to write just writing’s sake, as you say. Good luck! I can’t wait to read more posts about your NaNoWriMo writing!!

  2. Wow, 12,000 words already! You’re going like a train. Do keep the momentum and you’re done by November the 12th or so! 🙂

    I’m also taking part, but just over half of your word count. Good luck!

  3. Brava! Do it, do it! I’ve totally lost my courage when it comes to NaNo after too many failed attempts but I never had the discipline to stick — which, I agree with you, is one of the keys! Good luck with the rest of this month — write on!

  4. Congrats on already having 12,000 words! I have a measly 4K, but it’s a start. My story may never see the light of day, but I am trying, and for me, that’s the big thing! I really struggled on Nov 1st, but yesterday was a better day. I just hope that I have enough to write about to make the 50K mark! It’s the effort; right? 😉

  5. WOW! 12,000 words already? That’s impressive. I am doing it again this year with my students. I told them that I won’t reach the goal of 50,000 words, but it’s the journey, not the destination. At least it gets me to write more and in my book, that’s always a good thing. It’s exciting to see so many of my students really enjoying it. What’s your name on there? I’d love to be writing buddies with you!

    • That’s so cool you’re participating with your students, Christina. I would have loved a project like that as a student. I’m megan_lynn on the NaNo site and would love to be writing buddies!

  6. I’m always impressed by the people who attempt NaNoWriMo. I do consider myself a writer, but I’ve never felt like I had the creativity to attempt fiction or a novel. So I usually just watch with awe. Good luck – I’m sure whatever comes of it, you’ll be glad you at least tried.

  7. What is your user name on Nano? I am so pleased to hear you are trying again. You have done so well to get to 12,000! I have only done 7,000 so far.

  8. Ha so you commented on my blog, me swearing I was in it to win it, that you weren’t sure. Now here I am, commenting on your blog, about how awesome you are already doing, saying I haven’t typed a single word. Oh how the tides have turned. I had full intentions, and then got busy crafting and reading and knitting and my enthusiam has fallen apart. I know it’s not too late, and maybe this weekend, I’ll change my mind. Fingers crossed that that happens.

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