It's November and that means it's time for NaNoWriMo!
That's National Novel Writing Month, in case you were wondering. Writers spend the entire month working toward the goal of completing a 50,000 word novel. It's not an easy task. There is no time to think. No time to rewrite. You just write and write and write some more. Editing comes later.
I love it. I love the challenge. I love that there is no time for second-guessing. It's like the free writing exercises we used to do in high school. Stream of consciousness.
Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.
I have officially "won" NaNoWriMo only once. It was the first time I tried it. I think it was 2011. It was a novel called "Fat Ass" - terrible title, I know.
At the time, I was working on losing weight and training for a marathon. I was dealing with a lot of past issues, mainly to do with eating disorders. I wanted to write about it. Writing is how I deal with most of my problems, though sometimes they come out as something completely different. (I love it when that happens.)
I started a few days late because I didn't know about it until the first week of November. A friend mentioned it, and after a quick Google search, I was in. I worked really hard on it. I wrote until my hands cramped. It was not a good novel, but I finished it.
Then it was time to revise, and I couldn't bring myself to look at it. I had been so obsessed with writing it that I focused on little else for the entire month. I was sick of the story and put it away.
Fast forward about six months (I'm guessing here). I applied for a grant through the Flynn Center for the Arts to create an original musical (or the beginnings of one). I got the grant and was granted use of space at the Flynn to work with actors and musicians to create a script. I gathered some old friends and some soon to be friends, and we started working. SuperGym was born.
It was based on the idea from Fat Ass, but I completely started over and reworked the plot. I changed the characters and the setting. Only a glimmer of that first terrible novel remained. The creation process was one of the best things I have done. We ended up with a mixture of scenes, songs, and videos. It was funny and sarcastic and one of the few pieces of work I have created that I was truly, deeply proud of. We had a work-in-progress showing and Q&A for a small audience, and it was pretty well received. It was the first time my words made an audience laugh, and it was thrilling.
Unfortunately, work on SuperGym got derailed by life. I tried to go back to it a few times, but it never went anywhere. It happens.
I wrote a lot of other stuff. Plays, books, blogs. I improved my writing skills. (Working on this all the time) Still, the SuperGym idea stayed with me. It was always in the back of my mind. Random thoughts would arise, and I would jot them down and promptly lose them. But, it didn't matter. Somewhere in my brain, the pieces were coming together. I started to consider turning it into a novel (again).
I was resistant to the idea at first. The script was huge and had taken a lot of effort. The idea of trying to move the dialogue into a novel format was daunting. I realized that I needed to start over. One day I knew that I had to just start writing (NaNoWriMo style), and I sat down and wrote for six hours.
The plot changed. Some of the characters changed. Some remained but were fleshed out a little more. It became a real story. I was engaged in that world again. I struggled in places, but I just kept writing until I once again knew where the story was going. The day I came up with the ending, I could have jumped for joy. Endings are my biggest struggle, and I tend to leave them - well, until the end. This time I had an idea of where the story was going, and it shaped the novel.
I was pleased when the first draft was finished and dove immediately into revisions. It was daunting. The beginning had to be reworked to fit the ending, and let's face it, revisions are tedious. I got through it and put the manuscript away. I didn't look at it again for quite some time.
I wrote more plays and books and stories and blogs. I felt better about it this time. I was taking a break, not abandoning my baby. I went back to it with fresh eyes and a few new ideas. And, I revised and revised and revised some more.
I recently finished it. Do I feel that it's perfect? No. Not at all. But, nothing ever is. I think it's ready to be shared with others. That's what matters. Not everyone will love it or even like it, but I do. I think there are people out there who will also enjoy it. I'm in the process of creating a book cover and making plans for the launch (tentatively February 2017).
And, it all started with NaNoWriMo.
As I jump back into this frenzied month of writing, I thought it was appropriate to reminisce a little about the last time I completed this challenge. It's taken a long time, but it was worth it. I can't wait to see what this year's NaNoWriMo will bring.
Em is a writer, theatre director, and hiker. She likes mixing horror with magical realism and adding sci-fi twist.