Deep into NaNoWriMo

Every author knows that it’s National Novel Writing Month – thirty days dedicated to flexing our writing muscles and whipping out 50,000 words of an original manuscript. The idea is to give ourselves permission to pursue our writing passion with all our hearts, minds, and laptops in a frenzy of creative expression and production.

What a great idea!

What unfettered freedom to write!

What joy!

What planet are these people from?

Like most authors I know, writing a novel gets sandwiched in between a part or full-time job, parenting, spousing, volunteering obligations, pet maintenance, cooking and cleaning, and – oh yes! – occasional opportunities to sleep. So, at least for me, while NaNoWriMo sounds like a fabulous idea, that is, unfortunately, all it will ever be for me – an idea, not a reality. During the month of November, while other lucky authors suspend every claim on their time and energy to immerse themselves in writing bliss, I’m still teaching college sophomores how to construct a grammatically correct sentence, walking the dog at least twice a day, cooking dinner for my husband and me, doing laundry, answering emails, and maintaining personal hygiene. Until I can figure out how to do all that AND write at the same time, NaNoWriMo will continue to be an elusive dream, and I will go on wondering what it would be like to write a novel in thirty consecutive days.

Note that I wrote ‘consecutive’ days.

That’s because I do write a novel every year in thirty days. The days are just not back-to-back, or consistently eight hours of effort, but all in all, it ends up being around the same amount of ‘work.’ In other words, I write when I can. Some days, that ‘writing’ may actually be hours of mental plotting while I’m otherwise physically engaged (can you spell ‘spring cleanup’?) or it could be an uninterrupted ten-hour words-pouring-out-of-me marathon when I forget to eat (easiest to do when hubby and kids are out of town). I have, at least twice, written the first chapter in a methodical manner, sitting down to my laptop for four hours a day. But then it’s been weeks, or even months, before I get back for Chapter Two. As I often excuse myself to those who ask, I was trained as a journalist, and I work best under pressure, but as an example of writerly discipline, I stink.

It works for me, though. I find that downtime between chapters, or even mid-chapter, gives me time to play with my story, working out different arcs or conflicts. My writing breaks allow my characters to form more completely in my mind, often without my interference. And sometimes, my story takes turns I never would have predicted, thanks to the people or events I encounter while I’m in the middle of slowly, erratically, crafting a story.

Write a novel in a month?

If you can do it, go for it.

Me? I’m simmering stew, along with story plots. The really good stuff takes time, you know.

How’s your NaNoWriMo going?

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About jandunlap

"Archangels Book I: Heaven's Gate" is Jan's new Christian suspense novel that melds cutting-edge science with faith. She is also the author of "Saved by Gracie," her best-selling humorous spiritual memoir and the Birder Murder Mystery series that follows the adventures of ace birder/high school counselor Bob White, who has a bad habit of finding bodies when he birds. When she's not playing with fictional devices, Jan is a birdwatcher, a featured speaker, and the proud mother of five children. She welcomes visitors at jandunlap.com.

12 thoughts on “Deep into NaNoWriMo

  1. I love this, Jan. I, too, write while handling many other responsibilities. This year I’ve been on a writing deadline and 12 months to complete a Bible study is about as NaNoWriMo as I get. I thoroughly enjoyed this post.

  2. HI JAn – yep, I am deep into NaNoWriMo, for the first time. And, no, it is not well edited and well thought out – it’s been a oretty wild ride! My internal editor has been locked in a cage in my head and is screaming to get out, but there is no time this November for that. What NaNOWriMo is doing though, is helping me see my way to finishing a novel I have bee writing piece meal for many years, Somehow the website. the collective accountability, the word count, the email encouragement, etc., are doing what I could not do on my own. After all 50,000 words are done, I wil have the luxury of going back to edit, rearrange, delete and tidy up all those words, And is has been very hard, yes. I work full time, am active in my church, have grandchildren, etc But I am trying to think of NaNo this way – I am working the harvest right now. When you are in the harvest season, you put in long hours, work like there is no tomorrow, and rest afterward. That’s the plan anyway! Blessings to al the writers out there, how ever it is that you produce your art. And a special blessing on all the NaNoWriMo participant!

  3. I love your analogy with the harvest – it’s exactly how I feel when I am pushing myself down to the wire on a deadline. There is nothing quite as freeing, I think, as TOTAL focus on an objective. Good for you for making NaNoWriMo work for you!

  4. Thanks Jan for not making the rest of us not feel guilty. I don’t do NaNo, but I do log into acfw.com ‘s Novel Track daily. I usually have a goal of 10,000 as my minimum monthly goal. But I will admit I spend more time editing. It would be good to learn how to turn of the internal editor for awhile.

    • I’ll have to check out the Novel Track, Sharon. That might be the daily push I need. My internal editor never sleeps, along with many of the other characters in my head, but I think that probably goes with the territory. My mom always said I had an overactive imagination.

  5. Yes! Yes! So many of us are at-home parents with kids, and that has to be our full-time gig. So many of us are at-home parents with freelance obligations that (gasp) actually pay. Priorities have to be set. Sometimes that means making time for the dream; but most of the time I have to be a grownup and fit in the fiction around the part that supports the family. And I’m okay with that.

  6. I don’t do this either, Jan. This is a terrible month for me to try to accomplish it! I do my month sometime between January and March. That’s a better time for me. However, like you I’m writing while living life, hunched over the computer in odd locations or darting in to work on writing when I have several hours to spare. Thanks for posting! I feel better.

    • I keep wondering who chose November – on top of normal responsibilities, I start in on holiday planning and prep, too. I’m with you, Melinda – January and February tend to be my most productive writing months.

  7. Hi, Jan — I’m so glad to have discovered this blog.

    I have a full-time job, teaching responsibilities at church, a 23-year-old living at home, a demanding cat, and a full life of friends and family. However, last year I chose to give two hours each evening to NaNoWriMo and it’s the best thing that happened to my writing life. I developed a daily writing habit.

    This year I’m taking the NaNo challenge again. Since I’m fairly new to the writing life, this challenge is an opportunity to improve my writing skills, commit myself to writing tasks, and dream about one day being a published author.

    I hear you when you say “the really good stuff takes time,” and I’m not expecting to have a good novel on November 30. But I am having a great time writing the draft of what could one day be a good novel. We shall see.

    • Good for you, Darla! I’m proud of you for taking the time to pursue what you dream. Us moms have a hard time putting our personal dreams ahead of all our other responsibilities, but we deserve it. Keep at it, and visit here regularly – we have to stick together for all the cheers and tears of the writing life!

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