One year ago today I was staring down the barrel of my first ever NaNaWriMo. It was my NaNoEve, if you will.
I was in a peculiar place last fall, mentally. My youngest daughter was almost three, both of my kids were finally sleeping (yes, it did take that long), and the frantic mental hamster wheel of parenting little ones had slowed a bit as the kids learned to entertain themselves and each other.
Oh, and both kids were finally in preschool! HALLELUJAH! So I suddenly found myself with a few free hours each week and a few extra brain cells available as well. Having survived a few years during which I could barely remember my middle name, the ability to think in complete sentences felt like a revelation. I was that dude in the commercial for that show who takes the magic pill that allows him to access the rest of his unused brain and basically becomes a super hero overnight. Or at least I think that’s what the show is about. I’ve never watched it. Anyway. I was him- A sudden genius in comparison to the person I had been a few months before. I probably should have just relaxed for a hot minute but, no, I needed something to DO. My mother, who is an editor and writer, told me about a contest called NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is an international writing challenge in which people all over the planet attempt to write 50,000 words of fiction during the month of November. Sound like fun? Go to nanowrimo.org and give it a shot! It starts tomorrow!
Now, I hadn’t attempted to write much since sixth grade when I wrote about fifty pages of the most awful Sweet Valley High/Beverly Hills 90210 sludge that you could imagine, but I was intrigued. I had always assumed that a person couldn’t even attempt to write a novel unless they had an entire story outline in their head and here was a website full of thousands of people who were “pantsing” it, ie writing without a plan (by the seat of their pants- get it?) What the hell, why not, right?!
I had only two story ideas, and I toyed with which one to choose for my first writing attempt. One was a neat sci-fi/dystopian/plague idea that had come to me in middle school bio class (a loooooong time ago) and one was based on a recent dream. WI had told my husband all about the dream when I had it, exclaiming, “I have the coolest idea for a story!” After I described it, his face informed me that it didnot, in fact, sound like a cool idea at all. (Me: “An orphan in a space brothel! A runaway! A cool Captain Kirk-like dude, but like the new Kirk, not the old Kirk, no offense to the old Kirk! Aliens!” My husband: “Ummmm….”) I had to pick one idea for NaNo, so I went with the crappy-sounding idea, because I was confident that my first attempt wouldn’t go well.
In the end, it…. actually did. Sort of. I churned out 60,000 words in a month, and to my utter astonishment, the weird piddling idea that I started with somehow turned itself into an actual story. Every paragraph I wrote surprised me. My brain began to work overtime while I slept. Every morning it felt as though someone had come in the night and whispered plot points to me. I didn’t stop to edit, or proofread, or anything, really. When I got stuck I simply stopped mid paragraph and skipped ahead to the next fun scene idea I had. When I hit walls, I shut down my computer and did something else, then came back the next day.
I finished NaNo and spent the next few months moving scenes around and playing with ideas until I had a basic solid first draft that was less than awful. Not good, but not awful. It wasn’t going to win any prizes, and would probably never get past a literary agent’s slush pile as is, but it was a WHOLE BOOK. I wrote a WHOLE BOOK! Things were getting interesting. And you know what? The alien adventure space brothel story actually wasn’t so crazy after all, once I figured out how to put all the pieces together! (Interested? Check out the page on Mosiac, where you can meet Tessa.)
After finishing the first draft of Mosiac I decided to get serious. Stay tuned to find out what that entailed.
And to my fellow NaNoWriMos out there, you can do it! Write, write, write! And if you want to be NaNoBuddies, I Nano under the name Speedreader. Happy writing!