Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Beautiful, Breathtaking Mess: A Writer In-Progress, NaNoWriMo 2020


"When the writing gets hard, or when it all feels like too much, remember why you write, and that there is value in what you’re doing. Stories matter. Your story matters." 

-NaNoWriMo 2020 Pep Talk, Alexis Daria  

November is National Novel Writing Month, a month when writers around the world commit to writing a 50,000 word novel in the space of one month. I've participated since 2016, and in that space of time, I've completed 4 novellas (3 of them are now published) and drafted the bones for 5 others. 

But NaNoWriMo isn't really about word count for me. In fact, in five years of prepping, attending write-ins, soaking in advice from authors and experts - and doing the actual work of writing - I've never reached 50,000 words in any story. 

Some writers might argue that this means I've never "won" NaNoWriMo. But I disagree. 

I win by showing up. I win by knowing my story matters, and by feeling the value of what I'm doing. 

My first NaNoWriMo I completed about 20,000 words on a children's story that would go on to become my first published novella. It's the shortest novella project, but also the most important one, I've ever completed. It was the story I'd had in my head since my early twenties, the story I'd begun writing in a coffee shop when I was 25, and didn't work on again until a decade later. Essentially, it's the story that made me a not only a writer, but a published author - cementing my commitment to a writing life. 

To say that it was important is an understatement. It was essential to the life I want to live; finishing it, revising it and later, publishing it - was when I turned dreams into reality and wishes into books.  

It was when I realized that my story mattered, that I could write - and that I was brave enough to share it with the world. 

Now, don't get me wrong - I've always been a writer. I began keeping a journal and writing poems when I was in junior high; I wrote short stories and acted out my own little plays for years before that - and I devoured books of all kinds, particularly stories in fantastical worlds with young, dreamy girl protagonists. 

But despite all these things, I didn't believe I could be a Writer. The kind whose books actually gets put on the shelves, the kind who has (gasp) an editor or could perhaps get an agent (sigh) or even (faint) an audience of real readers! 

The kind who starts a story and finishes it (at whatever word count - 15k or 50k or anything in-between), plus a stack of creative ideas for the next. 

But guess what? 

I am.

NaNoWriMo has changed me from a writer who dreamt of one day seeing her story in print, to a Writer who finished said story plus two more in the same series. 


As I write this, we are officially through the first half of November. There are perhaps hundreds of writers out there who are celebrating their "win" of 50,000 words already. But there are many more, I'm betting, who are in the doldrums, bemoaning what happened to get them so behind, so off-course, so distracted that they've only accomplished a few thousand words or a few chapters. 

Suddenly the story that had seemed so shiny and new and full of possibility on November 1st is looking old, dusty and worn on the 15th...so many ideas discarded and no inspiration, it seems, on the horizon. 

This is the point when so many writers, including myself, consider giving up. After all, finding the time and space to write is hard...and the writing itself? Even harder. 

When this happens, I look for inspiration in other places and things, particularly those that I love. Music, nature, my favorite books/authors/quotes/photos. This is also when I look for NaNo Pep Talks or pick up a journal and a pen and try a random prompt. Getting away from my computer is often the best way to find a new inlet to my story, or even begin to create ideas for the next one...eventually, spurring me to come back to my NaNo story with something unplanned - a new character or twist that I hadn't originally outlined. 

In other words, just keep writing - no matter how messy and unorganized and completely unlike what you thought it would be. Just keep writing until you finish that ugly first draft. 

It's your story, and it's a glorious, beautiful, breathtaking mess (see the above quote from Charlie Jane Anders, which is so much truth)! 

But most of all, it's written. 

And that's always a "win" in my books. 

Brew the coffee, feed the cat - & keep on writing, NaNos. November isn't over yet. 

#bewriting -Stacie 

Thank you for stopping by my blog. If you are participating in NaNoWriMo 2020 and want to connect at www.nanowrimo.org - send me a writer buddy invite! To read chapters from my WIP, follow this link: https://www.wattpad.com/story/210223574-the-legends-of-aloria

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