In honor of National Novel Writing Month I’m posting an article I wrote about my experience last year. An edited version of this article appeared in Sprouts, the magazine of the New Jersey chapter of SCBWI.
Take Five for NaNoWriMo
In November, most folks are thinking of Thanksgiving. I wasn’t thinking of anything as I started scribbling madly for National Novel Writing Month, known to crazy writers who participate as NaNoWriMo.
Write 50,000 words in 30 days? How? This puzzle has five easy pieces.
1. A Carrot. If I wanted to go to the winter SCBWI conference in New York City, I would have to go through NaNoWriMo. I’m a songwriter whose muse has been commanding me to write children’s stories — weird enough — but now this? I love novels, don’t get me wrong, to read.
2. A Website. I told myself I didn’t need to spend time I didn’t have on the NaNoWriMo site, as refreshingly irreverent and hilarious as it is. Then, I saw the template for my own personal page. If there’s anything I respond to better than writing deadlines — give me any parameter please — it’s the opportunity to organize. After a few days of writing I uploaded my title and text. I got a word count. I was right on! I uploaded my excerpt that any NaNoWriMo participant would be able to read. Wait! Are you kidding? I’m not telling ANYONE about this! Hmm.
3. A Secret. Enter my pseudonym. The name my son calls me. He’s three. (I didn’t ask for a new name, I guess he just figured I needed one. Psychic.) Having a name that felt lucky for me was freeing and — anonymous.
After two weeks, when I realized I would succeed, (there’s not enough space here to chronicle my doubts, I’ll simply say the NaNo community is awesome! See my blog for advice I gave a blocked writer who supported me in my darkest hour. Wacky, but it works!) I uploaded my picture and confessed my true identity. I added my website link. My page read, “Mimi Cross The author of I Woke Up One Morning in November and I Realized I Love You the story of two young musicians who become confused during their creative journey, mistaking the highs and lows of their musical efforts for the ups and downs of life itself.” I was writing a novel.
4. A Circle. At some point I told several accomplished writers what I was doing. Why? I’d be embarrassed if I didn’t complete my goal. Wisely, I chose creative, generous people. All month long, behind the music of Philip Glass, Phish and Böjrk, (the artists my characters listened to at high volumes) I could hear the voices of my mentors cheering.
5. A Rock star. Don’t Look Back. That’s right, D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary film covering Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour of the UK. If you’re weak like Orpheus, if you turn back and read what you have written, your novel may vanish forever like Eurydice. Write like a runner. Sprint. Outrun your inner critic. Fly. Flow. Let go. Remember Franny and Zooey. A writer writes. NaNoWriMo is about writing. Save the reading — and editing — for later.
Although I haven’t edited my NaNo novel yet, magically enough — and there were many magical moments during my NaNo adventure, I’m convinced there are unseen universal energies at work when it comes to writing — my story developed a beginning, middle and end. One day it will be ready to share.
What if I Woke Up One Morning in November and I Realized I Love You becomes my desk drawer novel and never sees the light of day? That’s okay. I’ve started a second novel while the first rests. Working on the new book is as exhilarating as working on my NaNoWriMo project. I’m thrilled NaNoWriMo cleared the pipes in a way that allows my new story to run right out of me.
Of course it’s possible that I may be avoiding editing . . . or worse, query letters. All my children’s stories are waiting here, in line. Query letters. Ugh.
Good luck everyone, and PS, although I never made it to the winter SCBWI conference last year, I’m already signed up to go in January.
I’ve also started two more books :)
Who knew noveling was so addicting?
Just for fun (and isn’t it all?) word cloud for last year’s NaNo novel,
I Woke Up One Morning in November and I Realized I Love You