Get help to start that novel

betty ming liu Art, Inspiration, Relationships 9 Comments

Yay! I actually stuck it out for National Novel Writing Month! What a thrill to say that my November was spent churning out 60,000 words of utter dreck. But a book has to start somewhere, right?  :)

For those of you new to what is affectionately called NaNoWriMo, the goal is to challenge writers to produce 2,000 words a day during the entire month of November. This madness has been going on since 1999 and I am honored to say that I finally participated in the experience.

When I first blogged about NaNoWriMo back in October, I was pretty scared. But it was also inspiring to learn that countless novels and movie scripts have been successfully borne during this annual process. Now, I’m on my way too.

Of course, the work is in very, very rough shape. Some chapters are barely readable. But that’s to be expected. The mission was to simply get the feelings, scenes and ideas out of my head. Once they actually took shape on the page, I was in for some surprises:

  • My plan to write about Mom took me to unexpected places.
  • Stories about Dad finally came out of me. (He died when I was 19.)
  • I also ended up writing a lot about myself and the family dog.
  • Difficult ancient memories came out of nowhere but it felt healing.
  • I’ve become a faster blogger and editor of student homework.
  • During the rough spots, I turned to junk food and gained five pounds.
  • Going into this project without an outline actually worked in my favor.
  • This free-form experiment has me feeling more spontaneous in general.
Working at my desk

I'm not much of a boozer but during my writing marathon, I went through seven mini bottles of rum, scotch & vodka, plus tons of junk food. Meanwhile, the newspapers piled up unread. The house was dirty too. But at least I had the company of my two dozing editors. They liked hanging out near the space heater right by my desk. We were warm & cozy together.

The NaNoWriMo folks are so generous to offer their resources for free. To think — over the years, I’ve paid good money for creative writing courses without ever getting this much done! As a thank you, I just made a small donation to the organization, which is trying to raise money for a variety of writing programs geared towards young people. A worthy cause!

As for what’s next? Well, my immediate plans are to lose the five pounds and catch up on back issues of The New York Times. Of course, I must thank everyone who visited me on my Facebook page, where I bored you out of your skulls with my annoying daily updates about my progress.

And then, there’s the possibility of NaNoWriMo 2012. Some authors go back year after year. So I’m already thinking about going NaNo again. Maybe you’ll join me?


Comments 9

  1. Post

    organizations like nanowrimo make me grateful that i live in the age of the internet. the online world offers us so, so, so much — usually for free too. thank goodness i’m not a middle-aged woman living in the early 20th century! i think i would’ve shriveled up & lost my mind by now.

    by the way, did you notice our dog’s lion tail? i shaped it like that during nanowrimo. it was an activity during one of my daily breaks. with three cats in the house, i figured the new tail styling would give the dog and our family felines some commonality for making friends. :)

  2. Okay, I love the photos! They made me laugh. Super cute cat and dog and yes I noticed the lion tail. hee hee. Do you really get time to go through the backlog of the NYTimes? I always end up throwing mine out once the pile gets too high.
    But Congrats on writing 60k! I did NaNoWrimo in 2009 and it felt great to finish and write the 50k. My novel felt like a lot of mush with a few sections of “okay” writing I could use in the future but the process itself felt great and liberating.

  3. Post

    mj! maybe someday i will have something for you to read. :)

    and adriana, you were my initial inspiration. do you remember that you mentioned nanowrimo and i asked you what it was? thank you for getting me going. i’ve got a pile of crap too. bit if we are unburdened and freer for it, then that’s pretty amazing. as for the nytimes, i went thru a few days of the paper today — i end up skimming and just reading a few stories. the ones that pile up, though, are my new yorkers. i hate to throw them out but sometimes i do.

    isha, i hope you have a chance to try it. the challenge is to not over-think and just go with it. :)

  4. I’ve been meaning to do NaNoWriMo for a few years now. I think it’s a great way to force yourself into the habit of writing every day, as well as jump-start a longer piece–for me, starting is the easy part, it’s sticking with it that gets tricky…and often doesn’t happen. Thanks for sharing! Good luck with you work!

  5. Post

    katie, i think you might love doing nanowrimo for precisely the reasons that you mention. i didn’t think was was gonna make it either. but it feels good to complete a writing marathon. :)

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