Novels and NaNoWriMo

I follow a lot of bloggers who are also writers.  Some of them are published, and some of them aren’t.  But they all write as a passion, and that means every November, a lot of them start talking about their word count, their characters, and their plot lines.  I start seeing huge lists of writing tips and motivation on Twitter.  Things like Dory singing “Just keep writing!” fill up my social media feeds.  Every November, tons of people around the world worry and fret about whether they can write 50,000 words in one month.

That’s because November is NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month.  If you’ve never heard of it, you can read about it here.  (It’s not too late to join if you also want to participate!)

I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo (which is NaNoWriMo’s summer counterpart) the summer before I started college.  I did not make 50,000 words.  I think I wrote between 20k or 30k, which is still quite an accomplishment.  But I’m probably exaggerating.  And I haven’t participated since.

I’ve wanted to be a published author as long as I can remember.  Books and words are definitely my first love, and I used to write stories all the time.  My problem was finishing them.  So I thought NaNo would be perfect for me.  Just churn out the first draft, and the first step is done.  It seems a lot less daunting that way.

So why did I stop participating?  Well, for one, I started college.  It always seems like fall semesters are the busiest, and writing however-many words a day on top of homework and extracurriculars is just too much.  November is also when a lot of semester projects start being due, and those just take priority.

But the other reason is I’ve lost my interest in writing novels for now.  I still read them all the time, of course — I would go insane if I couldn’t read others’ stories.  I love novels with all my heart and will read them till the day I die.  But I just don’t know if I want to write one.

Obviously, I enjoy writing.  I have a blog, after all.  But lately my focus has shifted from novels to writing about other things.  My favorite posts to write are memoirs, and I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a book-length one of my own someday.  I’ve though about extensively interviewing my parents and writing their story.  And, being in business school, I’m surrounded by marketing blogs and content creation ideas that center around the goal of appealing to the consumer by helping them with a problem.  I would love to have a job where I create blog posts and social media content for a company.

But novel writing is not my thing anymore.  I’m more invested in what is going on around me than I am in my own head.  I don’t get ideas for stories and characters anymore; I get ideas for blog posts and essays and research papers.  This is probably more a consequence of who I am around more than it is my ability to be creative, like I sometimes tell myself.  I think if I had been an English major I would still think like a novelist.  But I’m majoring in Marketing, and while I may someday be able to write a novel about that, right now my focus is on other things.

However, to all the WriMos out there furiously typing away, best of luck to you!  Even though I do not participate anymore, I highly respect those who do and cannot wait to read about all you are up to this November.  Who knows, maybe I’ll be reading your book one day.  And maybe, just maybe, in a year or five or ten, I’ll join you.


NaNoWriMo Is…The Zone

You know the feeling when you’re half-asleep, and you’re dreaming, and you’re just awake enough to know that if you move, the dream will be gone?

The Zone is like that.

I love when I get into the Zone — where it’s just me and the page in front of me, where I am so into my work I can sit and concentrate for hours without getting distracted.  It’s when creativity flows the fastest and heaviest, when some of my most brilliant lines spout forth from my fingertips.  But it can be a fragile state.

For me, the Zone begins in quiet times, maybe if I’m a little tired, preferably if no one is around.  In the Zone I can blissfully succumb to my own writerly fancies, forgetting all other chores and obligations.  You other writers out there will know exactly what I’m talking about — when real life fades and your writing becomes your reality, when you live inside your story.

Unfortunately, not everyone knows or is appreciative of the Zone.  Family members can be quite inconsiderate of the Zone, barging in to talk or demand that you participate in their lives.  The phone, especially, is one of the Zone’s worst enemies, with its noisy, startling din.

And then there are those twilight moments, where you’re in the Zone but not working, and there is one predator to that state that will kill the Zone if it gets the chance.  It’s a beautiful, enticing place full of imaginary closets and weddings and food and fitness.  It makes you happy while you’re there, but when you finally break free you realize that, really, you have been pinned there (yes, pinned) by all the pretty things, held captive against your will.

(Darn you, wretched creation.)

The Zone can also come at the most inconvenient times, such as when your family is getting ready to sit down to dinner or when you are away from a typing device and are reduced to scribbling frantically on whatever paper product is available at the time.  Or sometimes, the Zone sneaks up on you, and you just have that nagging feeling that were you at your computer, or if you held the pencil in your hand, the words would spew forth like fireworks, but maybe you’re at work or in a meeting and you will never know what brilliance you might have written because that particular Zone will pass in the next moment and never come again.  And then you’re left with a feeling of loss that is as vague as it is piercing.

And the Zone is fickle.  Sometimes you can participate in conversations while in the Zone, giddy enough with the adrenaline rush to be able to talk while still typing at the speed of light.  Sometimes the high is so good you have to get up and pace around, planning out loud excitedly and doing lots of waving around of your hands.  Other times the Zone is so intense you are deaf to the world, still as a rock to all observers but living a fantastic dream inside, and the only interaction you give is a hand held up — “don’t” — when others try to talk to you.  And sometimes the Zone is a fragile thread, and the frantic typing pace comes from fear that soon the Zone will be gone, and you must get as much work done as possible while it is still here.

Occasionally, the Zone ins’t even a time of frantic typing.  Sometimes it’s just a moment of profound clarity deep in your brain where everything in your story falls into place and you know exactly what you are doing.

Those Zones don’t come very often.

But the one thing that unites all Zones is that every Zone that is really blissful comes during intentional work, by consciously trying to immerse yourself in your story.  By reading over it to feel as if you are really there, by experiencing what the reader will experience.

And that, really, is how all your hard work is truly paid off — not by getting published and finally seeing your book on the shelf, although those are beautiful moments in life and ones every author aspires to see — but by working hard, so hard you lose yourself in your story and slip quickly and quietly into the Zone while the rest of the world whirls around you.

NaNoWriMo Is…Inspiration

Inspiration usually comes during work, not before it.

–Madeleine L’Engle


Over the last four days, I’ve been typing, typing, typing, and this quote has started to make so much sense.  It’s when I sit down to write, turn off the distractions, and start throwing words on the page that I get ideas.

I don’t get them instantaneously, of course.  A lot of the time, I feel like I’m rambling just to make my word count.  And that’s frustrating, because I know I might go back over my manuscript and delete half of it once it’s all done.  But that’s also the beauty of NaNoWriMo — that I can write stuff that may well be crap, but once it’s all over my ideas are finally down on the page, finally finished, and I can move on to the next step.

And right now, I truly believe I WILL finish, because when I sit down to ramble, more ideas keep coming my way.

Words Written: 6,472

Words To Go:  43,528

Camp NaNoWriMo!

I am a forgetful person.  But occasionally I remember things just in time.

Ever heard of NaNoWriMo?  It’s short for National Novel Writing Month, which takes place every November.  Basically, you write furiously all month until you step back from your computer and hope all those words somehow formed themselves into a coherent story.  I’ve thought about doing it, but I always seem to remember it’s happening right around the middle of November.  Plus, Novembers are busy for me.

Thankfully, there is also Camp NaNoWriMo, which is a significantly more awesome version of the regular NaNoWriMo!  It occurs in July rather than November, a still busy but less hectic month for me.  And, along with the usual word-tracking, you get to be in a virtual cabin of people who are also doing Camp NaNo.  These people can support and encourage you, ad it’s always fun to get to know other writers!

I’ve got five days until the frantic typing begins.  That gives me five days to finalize my plot and characters.  Then, it’s on to 31 days of nothing but writing, writing, writing.  My word goal is 50,000 words, which means I must write 1,612 words per day to finish on time.


But for now, onward!