December 2nd, 2008

My NaNoWriMo experience

I first heard about NaNoWriMo here on LJ. Lots of people were doing it and I thought it sounded so intriguing, but I couldn’t participate because I had a deadline for something else.

Well, this year I made a point of clearing my schedule for this. I turned in The Ex Games the last week in October, and I got ready to start something completely new. I even spoke to the creative writing students at Homewood High School, who were doing NaNo too. I got so excited, I recruited lots of other people to NaNo with me.

And I was off and running. The first day I was at a bit of a loss because I’d done much less preparation than usual for a new novel, but I made my word count. This continued for a few days. Day five I didn’t do much and got a bit depressed, feeling lost. But the sixth day I’d thought things through. For about two weeks there I was flabbergasted at how easy the writing was and how wonderful and original my story was turning out to be.

Now, I knew I would not have a problem writing 1667 words a day. This is a low-ish daily word count for me. But I knew I would have a problem writing 1667 words a day for 30 days straight. Things come up. I have a “real” job and a child. I figured he would get sick or I would get sick or both, which would derail me.

I did get derailed, but not by us. By Going Too Far. First I received the final revised cover:

Pretty, yes? They changed her eye a little and added a fancy dramatic line: "When love crosses the line...where do you stop?"

Then I got a big box of advance reading copies. You may wonder why I have not posted pictures everywhere of my cat sitting next to my beautiful book. That is because this version of book is not beautiful. They didn’t have the cover finalized in time to put it on the advance reading copies.

No matter--they are advance copies of the book and I needed to send them to reviewers. That was more important than writing my NaNo novel, and so much easier.

But at some point I resurfaced, looked around, and said, waitaminute! I am waaaay behind! I must finish! This is when it really helps to have spoken to the creative writing students at Homewood High School and bragged to them about how you were going to kick NaNo’s butt. There was no way I was going to give up. So I got going again with an impossible daily word quota.

victoria_dahl was one of the many friends who started NaNo with me but didn’t finish. Her excuse is that she has real deadlines for real books (who, me, jealous?). During the doldrums of the month she was no longer NaNoing, but she was still writing hard like I was. Normally Vicki and I call each other once or twice a day and e-mail between one and fifty times, depending on what we are making fun of. Our conversations are about (1) our books, (2) other books, (3) our husbands, (4) our sons, and/or (5) pumpkin bread. But in the third week of NaNo I’m pretty sure I didn’t call or e-mail her at all, and she e-mailed me only once--a message that sums up nicely the place where we both were.


To: Jenn
From: Vicki
Subject: Cozy and not total surrender

Okay, I've found the perfect sweatshirt. I never, ever wear sweatshirts because it is like pasting a sign to your head that says, "I've given up. Please look away." But during October deadline, I was so stressed and insane that I would get up every morning and put on the ONE sweatshirt we have in the house. I think my husband probably wears it while snowblowing or something. It was gigantic. I got addicted to its cozy softness and I've been on the hunt for something that didn't scream "Depressed Housewife!"

I found it. Perfection for winter mornings. Considering that you are cold all the time, I suggest you go to Target and buy one. I already went back for another color and I'm now thinking of buying the other two colors too. Also, they run small. I'm wearing a XXL, which is ridiculous (unless I'm shopping for tshirts in the teen section at Walmart.)

Buy it. And love me.


My reply? I have no time for coziness or Target, and anyone who looks at me will know I am a depressed housewife so why hide it? I have not put on earrings in two weeks! I have not seen my mascara in several days! Nanonanonanonano! Must finish! More words!

By Thanksgiving I was in good shape. I thought I would have good writing days at my parents’ house in the early mornings before the relatives woke up. Unfortunately I got sick and didn’t do much of anything on Thursday or Friday except sleep. I pretty much missed Thanksgiving. But my mommy took care of me and my daddy made me maple-cinnamon bread in his bread machine. And on Saturday I came home and finished my novel while watching the Alabama-Auburn game (ROLL TIDE).* If Alabama hadn’t gotten ahead 10-0 pretty early, I might have paid closer attention and finished my novel on Sunday, but 36-0 and a husband and son rooting for Auburn and pouting in front of the other TV make for good writing time.

I’ve written only a few hundred words since then, but tomorrow I plan to get going again and have the entire 100,000-word novel finished by December 31. I’m afraid I will have to throw out some of my writing, especially what I was really grasping for during the fourth quarter. But at heart I think I have an original, fun story that owes much of its breathless pace and many of its quirky details to NaNo.

*Yes, I went to Auburn, and yes, I am an Auburn fan. But I grew up an Alabama fan. And it irks me when one of these teams ruins the other’s chances at the SEC Championship, the National Championship, etc. So during the Iron Bowl I cheer for the team that’s been doing better during the season. This year it was ALABAMA OMG #1 ROLL TIDE. And in those extremely rare years when both teams suck, I cheer for the offense. I am not complex.