I am a short-distance writer. I grew up writing articles for the school newspaper and short fiction for the literary magazine. When I went to college, I wrote for a political magazine and then had an op-ed column in the student paper. After graduation, I was an honest-to-goodness newspaper reporter, and transitioned to a decade as a paralegal, writing legal-type stuff.
I’m not sure when National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) appeared on my radar, but I think it’s been at least three years ago. Last year, I took a pathetic stab at it, turning out only 10,000 words over the month. I have almost as many excuses as words, but the sting of that failure stayed with me for the next eleven months.
This year, I decided to try it again. In and of itself, this is remarkable for me – usually, if I’m not completely awesome at something on the first try, it is dead to me. But I knew I could do it if I approached it like my newspaper job. Way back then, we were all expected to write several stories a day, and I’m sure my daily word count easily exceeded the NaNoWriMo goal of 1,667. I tried to imagine my book as 30 vignettes of 1,667 words apiece.
By November 30, I had written 50,144 words.
There were days when my word count was zero, but I made sure to keep my average up. Over Thanksgiving, when I was ensconced in a cabin in the woods with Jason and Hazel, I made up a lot of ground. It was pretty easy when this was my writing area for the week:
As I said at the outset, I chose to write about my journey with my mom through the last two and a half years. It was a valuable experience, and looking back over the whole experience gave me much better perspective on both the bad parts and the good. I giggled some. I cried a lot.
I used half a box of Kleenex. A whole box would have been unseemly.
Writing the whole story has helped me grieve. Forming my mother’s death into a narrative allowed me to wrap my brain around its edges, instead of feeling like I was drowning in it.
On a technical note, I used a private blog on WordPress to write my book. I simply started a new blog post for each chapter. Most chapters were one or two days long. I don’t know if I’ll do this again next time, because it was hard to keep track of posts – they’re published chronologically, not in the order in which they appear in the finished work. I’d like a little more flexibility to re-arrange sections. Also, in order to officially “win” NaNoWriMo, you have to copy and paste the complete text of your book into a text box. That would have meant copying and pasting around 25 separate posts. Honestly, the Facebook badge just wasn’t worth it.
So now what?
I’ve put the whole thing aside for the last week, but will probably pick it up soon to begin organizing it, refining it, and maybe even adding to it. And then I’ll let someone read it (spoiler alert: probably Jason). After that, I’ll ask his opinion on its fitness for public consumption.
I may publish it serially on the blog, or look into self-publishing if Jason is blown away (spoiler alert: not likely).
I consider this to be a big personal accomplishment. I’ve always, ALWAYS, wanted to write a whole book – and now I have. I really don’t care if it’s amazing, it’s mine.