Life, Writing

50,000 is a Lot of Words

For those who don’t know, this is National Novel Writing Month. Known affectionately to the initiated as NaNoWriMo. The goal of this venture is the writing of 50,000 words in one month, specifically, the month of November. As I furiously pound out words for the fifth Firmament book, I can’t help thinking back to my previous involvement (or lack thereof) with NaNo.

I first encountered this tradition back in 2010. I decided to participate last minute, but I had no internet access, so it was basically just me and my word processor. No word wars. No pep talks. No writing buddies. (Fellow NaNoers will recognize all these conventions.) It was just me, plugging along through a novel, trying to write more than I’d ever forced myself to write in one month before. I got so far behind I ended up having to write 10,000 words on the last day. Which I did. To this day, I have never written that much in a single day since.

That book went on to become Never, the second novel I published, which many friends think is my best book thus far.

In 2011, I was excited to try it again. I planned out another western, got on the website (I had internet by this time), and was all set to go at midnight on November 1st. The only problem was, I got about 1000 words in and realized that my story was really really boring. I panicked, looked through my scores of novels abandoned before they reached page five, and selected a supernatural thriller called The Devil’s Workshop. I got all of 30,000 words into that one before I had to admit that it too was incredibly boring.

I finally gave up on that one and used the last 19,000 words on Firmament: Machiavellian, becoming what’s known as a “NaNo Rebel” but still technically winning.

In 2012, I again had a story all planned out. Well, sortof all planned out. I had several scenes vividly in mind, of an experimental story where the main characters were versions of people I knew, but raised differently. I wrote the different scenes I had ideas for and again got about 30,000 words out of it before I ran out of ideas (including ideas about how to connect the bits I had left).

So I turned to Firmament again and wrote the first 20,000 words of Reversal Zone, the fourth book. Again, I was reduced to NaNo Rebel status, but I won.

Then there was 2013. I had enthusiastically planned to finish Reversal Zone, and I reached about 27,000 words this time before something happened in my personal life that brought the writing to a halt. Without going into it, suffice it to say several close friends were pulled abruptly from my life, and I grew so discouraged that I just gave up. Something I’ve very rarely done.

I sat by and watched as my younger sister and much younger brother completed NaNo, but it was a long time before I did any writing myself after that.

November 2014 came shortly after another sister ran away from home, and I didn’t have the heart to write for NaNo or much of anything else. I half-heartedly put the finishing touches on Reversal Zone but didn’t try to do more beyond that.

Thus this month, NaNoWriMo 2015, is more than just a writing challenge. It’s about more than just an impressive wordcount or the next novel in the Firmament series. It’s a renewal of my motivation. It’s my way of proving to myself, despite the hard things that have happened, the changes, the losses, and the pain, that I can drum out more than just introspective free verse poetry and be a real writer again. I’ll be honest–beyond a couple of short stories, I haven’t done any serious writing in well over a year. Getting into it again is hard. It’s painful in some ways. But there”s also the joy of wordsmithery, the comfort of revisiting my beloved characters, and that simple feeling of being home.

Here”s hoping that this time, I can keep on until the 50,000th word, stay strong, and not give up. This time, I’m going to make it. This year, I’m going to succeed.

It’s good to be back.

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