This post is a part of my Reflections on Nanowrimo series. Each November writers around the globe take on the challenge to write 50 thousand words in 30 days. It was a pretty big step for me and I would like to share some of that with you.
You can find my first post here.
November 1st rolled around a lot sooner than I had expected, but I was ready! Or at least I thought I was ready.
To “win” Nanowrimo you must write a work that is at least 50,000 words in the month of November. 50,000 words is the number of words that classifies your work as a novel. 50, 000 words in 30 days averages out to a writing pace of 1,667 words per day. Every day. For 30 days.
No sweat. Right?
Spoiler Alert: The answer to the innocently posed question is no. Lots of sweat and a couple of tears…I don’t remember any blood though.
I had recently crawled out of my Greg Iles “Natchez Burning Trilogy” induced haze (which, in my opinion, is actually a tetralogy or quadrilogy* – but I digress) and I turned my mind to jumping feet first into writing my first novel.
November 1, 2017 was a Wednesday and I had to go to work. I had a pep in my step and a premise set in my mind. I picked up my sky blue HP laptop, packed it in my backpack, slung it over my shoulder and headed out to the bus. (I hopped in my car and drove the 10 minutes to the carpool lot where I would meet the bus – but you get it)
I got comfortable in the elevated seats at the back of the bus, pulled out my computer and popped in my earbuds. I happened to be listening to KT Tunstall’s “Eye to the Telescope” album at the time and from that moment forward, it was the soundtrack to the writing of my novel.
I have a two hour hour commute to work each way, every day, so I took full advantage of the time to get a good rhythm going on my first day.
Nearly four uninterrupted hours of getting to know my characters likes and dislikes, their manner of speech, how they use body language and how they interact with each other. It was a wonderful experience to be able to craft their personalities and put those ideas on the page.
I really enjoyed those first few days getting to know them. And I am glad I took the time, because later on, it was they who told me how they would get themselves out of the predicaments I placed them in.
So, there we were, KT and I, typing away (on the bus, on the train, then later on back on the train and then on the bus) and somehow, by the end of day one I had written 2,027 words! I was so happy! I was pumped and ready to do it again the very next day.
On the second day I sat on the bus and the words flowed, but when I switched from the bus to the train, members of my train family (fellow commuters with whom I have been sitting for years) joined me. Well, I couldn’t be rude, so I unplugged my earbuds, saved my progress and turned off my laptop.
That became the norm. I would write until my fellow commuting comrades would join me, either on the bus or the train, and I would pack away my work. I rationalized that I would write at work on my breaks (ha! umm, no) and on the train ride home when it was a bit quieter.
When asked what I was working on I would just give a shy smile and they would just assume it was school work or that it had something to do with my 9 to 5. I couldn’t bring myself to admit I was working on a novel. What would they think? Another flighty wannabe with a terrible attempt at a “50 Shades” remake. I couldn’t have my work looked at through those eyes. I was not prepared to hear those things.
So, no one knew what I was working on. Not for a very long time.
Thankfully, I was able to work during the evening commute. My train buddy had his own laptop out and he and I would exchange pleasantries and, as though we practiced ahead of time, we would plug in our earbuds and type away quietly until we met the end of the line where we would invariably look around in a daze, pack up our belongings and say our goodbyes. I would then race to meet the bus, because if I missed it it would be an hour and twenty minutes until I saw my car, instead of the 27 minutes it normally took.
It went on that way for the entire month of November (and beyond honestly, but we are focusing on November).
Wednesday I blasted out of the gate, Thursday I added to the number by about 1400 words, but by Friday that number had dropped to around 1200. I was losing momentum and I was getting worried. It was too much.
How do people write books and work and have families? I had no idea. And really, I still don’t know, but they do and thank God for that.
My saving grace for this challenge was the weekend. My husband, Random, works shift work and that weekend he happened to be working 12 hour days. Usually, when he has that shift I drive all over town, pop in to see friends, visit my parents. Clean.
But that Saturday morning I saw the opportunity for what it was. I had two whole days to myself to write and I would not waste them. My word count jumped from 4,687 on Friday night to 18,083 by Sunday night.
It did wonders to my self esteem to plug that number into the Nanowrimo website. Their website allows you to update your word count and they reward you with badges if you do it on a daily basis. It also organizes your information so that you can review your stats quickly to keep track of your progress as you go as well as see how other folks in your region, country or planet are doing.
And allows you to be accurate when you talk about it months later.
I was so proud of myself. It was when I truly began to believe that I could do this thing.
Was I a writer?
10 year old Abbie said “Yes!”.
Ahem-year old Abbie said, “Maybe you’re right kid.”
Fully entrenched in the story, I looked forward to week two. And to maybe telling my parents that I was writing a novel. Maybe.
I couldn’t wait to see where it would lead me next.
But we can talk about that next week.
*Tetralogy or Quadrilogy – whichever may be your personal preference for a foursome of literary works – I’m not gonna debate the issue. They are both a mouthful.
The “Natchez Burning Trilogy” actually starts with “The Quiet Game” in my humble opinion, which is then followed by “Natchez Burning”, “The Bone Tree” and finally “Mississippi Blood”.
It’s heavy stuff, entertaining and well worth the read.