Wow! The end of this National Novel Writing Month came quick. I can’t say it snuck up on me because I was very in tune to every day. Especially those days when the struggle was real. I’m posting this wrap-up message on December 6th because on November 30th I was in flight to Los Cabo Mexico to celebrate my 10th anniversary as a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. This trip was THE best way to wind down from a month of writing, something I’ve never done before.
The experience has been nothing less than life changing for my writing life! In these weeks I have literally learned that I can do hard things. Specifically, I learned that I can prioritize my writing over people that I love and events that I’d like to attend, and the world will not fall apart. The people I love and like will still love and like me. And most importantly, I learned that people will respect my commitment to my writing IF I respect the commitment I set for my writing.
I’m not totally disappointed that I didn’t hit the goal of 50K words (18,230 to be exact) I commend myself and everyone else who participated in the challenge for just trying. This was not an easy task to take one. And being a “pancer”, someone who does little to no plotting and planning. I literally pulled an idea that I’ve been stewing over for the last couple years and starting writing it. I had the beginning of the story somewhat planned but as with the writing process, I could already tell it would have to be revised. Nevertheless, I’m excited to have a start to this novel, which will be my fourth!
Here’s a list of other key takeaways from my participation in NaNoWriMo 2022:
It’s okay to talking to people about what I’m writing. This might be a writers’ thing, but I don’t usually talk to friends about what I’m writing. Honestly, I don’t think they really care. Most times I feel like whoever I’m talking to is waiting for me to finish talking about it so they can carry on with what they wanted to talk to me about. I’m usually the “listener” of my friends or family. However, this month I made a concerted effort to share with family and friends that I was working on a new story during the challenge. And that usually led to them inquiring about the story so I told them.
There’s an additional benefit to sharing my writing with others, even if they’re not writers. I received a great suggestion from the dater my cousin brought along to an event we both attended. In sharing with my cousin about my story, which is about two caregivers, in different age groups, ethnicities, and personalities on a road trip after both of their husbands die, I mentioned wanting to go beyond the black/white friendship and involve a ethnicity we don’t often see in African American stories. His date suggested a Native American and I was immediately intrigued. Interestingly, I was scheduled to attend a webinar the following week about Thanksgiving from the Native American perspective. Although my character choices had nothing to do with why I signed up for the webinar, I felt like her suggesting that was a sign of how I should move forward. I wouldn’t have received that if I didn’t share my idea in the first place.
This might be a given but it’s solidified in my mind now. I must have a goal for any writing that I start. A blog post, essay, short story, or novel. Once I move from my story conception to writing, I have to give myself a solid goal for completing the first draft. Believe it or not, I have not been doing that. There have been times I set a goal but didn’t sit down and determine how I was going to do it. This challenge made me do that and, for that, I am forever changed. Going forward, with anything I want to do, I’m going to set a goal and create a plan for how to accomplish it.
So thank you National Novel Writing Month for being a great teacher of 2022!
I’m curious…what has challenged you on your writing journey or any other journey you’ve embarked on? Post in the comments.
Things have picked up. After the struggle of week 2, I kept pushing and I’m not disappointed.
What I am is tired.
Yesterday, before I had to work at four in the afternoon, I laid in bed, literally all day. Writing is an exercise of the mind and it is just as draining as physical exercise. I didn’t worry about writing during the day because I knew I would have time when I was on desk at the library. That’s how slow it is in the evening at the community college library that I work at on Thursdays.
The sleep did me good, though, on many levels. I woke up the next day refreshed and recharged. I got up and out early to take care of some car maintenance that was on the schedule for the day before. Again, I knew I would have time to write on my afternoon shift at the library.
I’m proud that I have not missed a day of writing since this challenge began. My numbers are climbing, just not as quickly as I would have liked for this particular week. Truthfully, I am feeling a little defeated, but I’m not allowing that to keep me pushing forward. Why? Because on November 30, 2022, I will have a draft–50k words or not– of a new novel. And that’s a major accomplishment in itself.
Last week, the second week of the challenge, was a struggle. I started off with a bang on the first two chapters of my manuscript. It wasn’t too hard because I had had that part mapped out in my head for quite some time. However, once I completed those chapters, I struggled getting the words for the next two chapters. I was immediately irritated that I’m not more of a strategic writer. In the world of NaNoWriMo, I’m what they call a panser–a person who writes by the seat of their pants. And then in the middle of the week I had to take on grandma duty to babysit my two granddaughters while their mom-my daughter–had some “Me” time…in London! When she asked me to keep them several months ago, I had not decided to be participate in this 50K word novel writing challenge. At that time I had only planned to host write-ins with my library for all the other writers. Nevertheless, I still thought I would have been more productive because the truth is I get most of my writing done when I’m not at home. So I really thought having the girls wouldn’t have affected me. However, I hadn’t considered how the anxiousness of this commitment to babysit 2 under 2 was going to effect my ability to be creative when I did have time to write. Then I was bummed and down in the dumps that I was barely writing 500 words a day when the previous week I was killing it with at least 1,000.
So you can imagine how bleak my outlook became on accomplishing my goal. Today starts week 3 and I’m nowhere near the 50K mark. Not even close enough to half.
But I’m not giving up. I received an email from the NaNoWriMo organization talking about just what I was experiencing.
The writer made reference to this second week of NaNoWriMo being the hardest of the challenge. Why? Because it’s common to lose that momentum of the first week. It’s kind of like when you get an idea for a book and you start writing for the fun of it. Then you hit the spot where you lose the motivation. To keep writing when you’re not inspired or motivated in what us writers like to call the “work” of being a writer. You have to write when you don’t feel like. You have to write when you feel like it’s not making sense to you. You have to write when none of the fancy words in your vocabulary are coming to mind.
Instantly, I felt less alone and more inspired to stay the course. So after I dropped my daughter and granddaughters off at their apartment close to midnight last night, I decided that the next day was my fresh start.
I woke up this morning and grabbed my laptop and got to work!
I’m really not a writer who needs “life” shit to happen to me. I BS enough with my writing all on my own. But, of course, “life” shit happens. At the tail end of August, when I was preparing myself for entering the empty nest phase of my life, taking my youngest child to college he selected, my oldest child drops a bomb on me.
“Umm…Mom, me and the girls need to come stay with you for a few weeks until my apartment is ready.”
Okay. I say. What else was there to say? “No. You and my 2 year old and 5 month old granddaughters can not come stay with me temporarily as you and your husband go through this separation.”
No. The reply was not an option. I am a mother. I am a grandmother. I am a helper. I am a nurturer.
Sooooo, for three weeks, I was full time grandparenting while juggling these two part-time jobs, with full time responsibilities AND trying to supply emotional support to my daughter.
It was rough, y’all. And that is an understatement. I literally did not have the mental capacity to write anything. I don’t even think I opened the damned Google doc. If it I did, it was probably to say, “Dammit! Why can’t you edit yourself?”
The three weeks ended. But it took my mind another few weeks to adjust foreign and sudden silence.
AND THEN October came. Me and my sister’s birthday month. Need I say more?
Sooooo, a few days ago when I came up for air, I finally opened the document and actually exhaled. It was like seeing an old friend that I didn’t realize I had been missing.
Seeing my words with fresh eyes was what I really needed. The writing has recommenced.
Connie Briscoe is another one of my favorite authors. Her novel, Big Girls Don’t Cry, holds a special place in my heart. As I teenager, at the time, I identified so much with the main character, Naomi Jefferson, who was also a teen at the start of the novel. The story followed the character into adulthood, which gave me a vision of the possibilities ahead for me as an adult. I’ve read a lot of books over my life, but very few are as memorable as this one.
I have long gotten rid of most fiction paperback novels in my personal library, but this one, I keep for sentimental value. Even if I ever get my hands on a hardcover copy I still may not toss it. When I checked out her feature books on her website, I’ve read nearly all of them. I’m glad to see she’s turned her attention to helping aspiring writers!