Writing a book is one of those things that I can recall wanting to do at some point in my life far before the conception of this blog and our accompanying bucket list. I’ve always thought of myself as a decent storyteller and envisioned that one day I might write something fantastic. The key part of that thought is the “one day.” Many people say they’d like to write a novel sometime in their life but very few people actually go out and do it. For a long time, I was one of those people. Until last month, that is. Now, I’m a novelist.
I can remember several times in my life when I tried to sit down and actually write a book. The first was when I was young, probably around nine years old, and it was a piece of fiction set in the Zelda universe that lost out to the allure of the summer pool after a few chapters. Then, in high school, I began two different novels. Both times I had an exciting first chapter or two based around some cool ideas that I had but unfortunately I lacked direction for my plots and quickly abandoned the projects. All this time, the memories of those stories started and never realized have tugged at my brain begging me to finish them or to at least start something new that would fulfill the goal of writing a book.
Two years ago, by chance, I stumbled upon something that I knew would finally allow me to accomplish this whimsical dream: a brilliant little contest called National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for short. The idea of NaNoWriMo is to pound out a short novel of 50,000 words in the month of November. I was sold hook, line, and sinker. When Amanda and I were creating our bucket list last year, one of the first things I knew had to be on it was to participate in NaNoWriMo and write a novel. I then decided that there was no reason to wait and that 2010 would be the first year that I attempted to write a novel for NaNoWriMo.
The thing about NaNoWriMo is that it is totally insane. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days equates to 1,667 words each and every single day. I determined that I would write 2,000 words each day in order to cover the Thanksgiving holiday, the half marathon trip to San Antonio, and any days where I simply didn’t have novel writing in me. To write at this pace requires acceptance that what you’re writing is most likely crap (or, take the optimistic/naive route and believe everything you write is perfect!). I’m my own harshest critic so I knew this would be the most difficult part for me.
November is the sneakiest of months and before I knew it the morning of the first day had arrived. I have a few decent book ideas but thought it best not to waste any of them on what was more or less going to be a learning exercise. I decided to wing it. A few hours later I crossed the 2,000 word mark, mentally exhausted but feeling great about my progress.
For the next 10 days I wrote at least 2,000 words every day. I had established a healthy lead on the NaNoWriMo pace by ripping through 22,000 words in 11 days. Unfortunately, I had one big problem in that I had no idea where I wanted my plot to go. This isn’t a huge deal at the start but the farther in you get the more of an issue it becomes. This began to manifest right as we were departing for San Antonio so I was thankful that I would have a couple of days to relax and think about the story. Of course, that didn’t happen. Instead, I spent the three days away from my novel enjoying the trip and avoiding all thoughts of my directionless plot.
While I intended to jump back in right away upon return from the trip, the procrastinator in me had other ideas and the three day break stretched to four days and then five, and before I knew it my word count lead had evaporated. I still had no clue where to take my story and became discouraged. Other things came up which I eagerly embraced working on in order to continue avoiding my novel. Before I knew it, a full two weeks had gone by and I hadn’t written a single word; I had given up.
With three days left in the month, I lamented to Amanda that I wasn’t going to finish NaNoWriMo. She gave me an inspirational pep talk by reminding me how badly I wanted to write a book. I knew she was right so, reinvigorated, I devised a quick plan. I was confident that if I could rip through several thousand words with the time remaining in the 28th day then I would give myself a chance to finish by writing 10-12,000 words each of the final two days. I produced more than 5,000 words by midnight and, satisfied with the momentum I now had, forced myself to stop for sleep. There were 48 hours remaining in NaNoWriMo and I had just over 22,000 words left to write.
So, did I finish? Did I manage to write 22,000 words in under 48 hours to become the first Root-family novelist and NaNoWriMo winner?
You’re damn right I did! Most of those two days are a blur but I somehow managed to pull it off. My novel clocked in at around 50,300 words and I finished with almost four hours remaining in one of the great comeback stories of 2010 (and my life!). When it was all finished Amanda and I celebrated with cheap champagne and Chinese delivery -a fitting feast for a writer.
So now what?
It’s been more than a month since I finished NaNoWriMo and most of you are probably wondering where I go from here. I’m not exactly sure. I still need to finish a short epilogue for the novel and then I’ll probably reread it to see what I think. If I decide it’s not absolutely terrible it may be worth putting time into rewrites and editing in order to submit it.
While I may or may not do something with my first book, the experience was incredibly rewarding all the same. I accomplished a huge life-goal and I did it in absurd fashion. Writing my first novel ranks very high as far as cool moments in my life are concerned. If you have ever said to yourself that you would like to write a book some day then I can’t recommend NaNoWriMo enough to you. Do it next year; you will be so thrilled to be able to call yourself a novelist. Trust me.
Finally, a couple quick answers to some questions you may have:
- Does your novel have a title?
- What is the plot?
- Can I read it?
It’s a bit complex. In broad strokes: the story of one young man’s journey through his childhood years at school to the point he works to expose a corrupt government. With swords.
Doubtful. Several people have offered to give it a read and while I greatly appreciate it, until I determine whether or not it’s the worst novel ever written I’m going to keep it to myself.
They even gave me this image and a certificate to prove I’m legit!