Tuesday, 5 July 2016

A Shoutout to National Novel Writing Month

I'd like to talk about the origins of my second completed manuscript, since it's been on my mind lately.

Usually the first draft of a manuscript takes me several months or a year to write. That wasn't the case with my second manuscript.

In the fall of 2014, I was...floundering. I'd suffered a personal loss and I couldn't seem to get motivated, about anything, really. The problem was, the thing I turned to when I was down, the thing that always got me through hard times - writing - I didn't even have the motivation for that. My WIP, which was in need of a round of revisions, had been put aside. And it never even occurred to me to start a new project. That is, until I came across something on the web about National Novel Writing Month. I'd heard about Nano before, just in passing, so I didn't really know how it worked. After a bit of research, I discovered it was an event in November during which writers pen a draft of their novel from scratch, with the goal of reaching 50,000 by the end of the month. My first thought was you'd have to be crazy to even attempt such a huge undertaking. That many words in just 30 days? Was it even possible? How did people find the time to do it? I put it aside, or at least I thought I'd put it aside. It kept creeping back into my head. And as it did, I got an idea for a new story.
I didn't know if I could write that many words in a month, but with this new idea beckoning, I wanted to try. The best part was, the minute I decided to sign up, my motivation returned full force. I wrote a detailed outline - something I'd never done before (now I can't imagine writing without one!) and I grew excited as November grew ever closer. I had a goal, I knew my main characters' names and conflict (it's a romance), and I even had a title that I loved. 

On November 1st, I was ready. During that month, I wrote every day. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to write, and the better my momentum. I was "in the zone." It was like I was flexing writer muscles I never knew I had. My wrists became sore, my body cramped from endless hours at the computer - but I was having the time of my life. The story unfolded before me, coming to life in ways I hadn't imagined - and some I had. I learned discipline, time management skills, and I fell in love with writing all over again.

I don't know if I'll ever participate in Nano again, but that year, it was exactly what I needed. It came along at just the right time in my life, when I yearned for an escape from my own reality but didn't know where to find it. 

I started that manuscript on November 1st, and by November 30th I had not just 50,000, but 80,000 words. It was a first draft, so obviously there were some rough parts and huge plot holes. But the heart of the story was there, and I was in a better place because of my accomplishment. 

The Absence of Butterflies may never be published, but I'll always look back at its origins and remember that it got me through a hard time. And when writing (like reading) makes us forget about real life for a while, that's a precious thing.

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