It’s November 1. The official beginning of NaNoWritMo, 2014!
If you don’t know what that is, it’s National Novel Writing Month, where you’re challenged to write 50,000 words in 30 days — between November 1 and November 30. (Ironic, that the first words I’m going to write are this blog!) Here’s the site: http://nanowrimo.org/
The words don’t have to be on the same topic. That’s the best thing. You can work on different projects at once if you want. All that you need to do is actually write the 50,000 words. If you do, and you submit them to the official website count, you win! What do you win? The bragging rights and a really awesome banner you can put on your Facebook page. Here’s mine from last year! But it’s better than that, because the things you really win by completing NaNo are intangible.
It’s the time when you put the pedal to the metal and prove you’re a writer. As I’ve said before — don’t make me get my soapbox out! — you don’t become a writer by talking about it. You become a writer by writing. NaNo makes you write. You have a daily word goal — just 1,667 words per day. That’s not a lot! You just write one word, and then another, and then another, and then 1,664 more, and by gum, you’ve met your daily quota! And best of all, no one cares what you’re writing! It can be a novel. It can be short stories. It can be blog posts. It can be dribbles of cold pudding. Who cares? No one will ever see it.
Unless . . . you’re like Erin Morgenstern. Or Sara Gruen. Or anyone else on this list of published novels that were started during NaNo: http://mentalfloss.com/article/53481/14-published-novels-written-during-nanowrimo Heck, there’s an awful lot of published writers who actually do research ahead of time so they can spend the entire month just writing on their new novel. See, this can be about Something Bigger. Often, the ideas that germinate during the cold November days as you’re chained to your computer can bloom into full-blown novels . . . novels that can get published.
Before last year, I’d never done NaNoWriMo. But last year, I took the best class of my life — Writing Young Adult Fiction from the University of Oxford. And there, we had to come up with an idea for our own young adult novel. I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do. Until one day, on my walk, this pipsqueak kid in suspenders, a tweed driving cap, and a tweed overcoat that dragged the ground appeared to me. That was Nicky. My rumrunner.
Nicky is difficult to work with. Not because he’s reticent or quiet — absolutely not!!!! Exactly the opposite. Of all the characters that have ever come to me, Nicky is the one who basically grabbed me by the shirt front and said, “Hey, lady! You. Write my story. Now.” From the second I saw him in my mind, I knew he was going to be trouble. And he’s done his best to live up to that initial reaction. But I swore that this year, during NaNo, I would finish the novel I started last year. And I would do it because Nicky deserves it.
I won’t lie. Giving myself over to his voice is a lot like a medium channeling a spirit. Last year, I was even starting to talk like him, and it took at least a solid month to break myself of the bad writing habits he demands of me. But more than that, with Nicky, he grabs you by the hand and sucks you into his world — and moving between my real life, and his world, is very difficult for me to do. It’s exactly like time-travel. (Well. Not that I know that for sure, but . . .) I have to re-immerse myself in the year 1924 — remember the dialogue and dialect, the words and phrases, the music and cars, the businesses and politics. I live there, when I’m writing with Nicky. And in reality, I live in 2014. But I do it anyway, because I have to.
Will my entire NaNo be taken up with Nicky? Hard to say — but probably. Does yours have to be? It better not be! You stay away from Nicky! He’s mine! 🙂 Go get your own characters to talk to you and suck you into their worlds. Go get your own characters that demand hours of research at the library and an entirely new vocabulary. But I am finishing Nicky’s story. If I know him, the worst is yet to come, and there will no doubt be tears — many of them — before it’s done. There will no doubt be more times when I’m typing away whispering to myself Nicky, just shut up and stop digging that hole deeper! even as he continues to do whatever it is he’s hell-bent on doing. But I’ll do it anyway.
Because I have a novel to finish, and a fourteen-year old rumrunner who needs me.
(If you need an inspiring story to get you started, here’s Erin Morgenstern’s blog about her NaNo adventure, and the path towards being published: http://erinmorgenstern.com/2010/05/agented/)