Yesterday was November 1, and with that came the start of National Novel Writing Month! National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, or just NaNo to participants) is ‘a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 p.m. on November 30.’ You can’t start before Nov 1, and you can’t edit as you write. It’s very fast-paced, an exciting way to either pound out that novel you’ve always wanted to write or get your creativity flowing stream-of-conciousness style.
I participated in NaNo for the first time in 2007, while we were living in Okinawa. My sister introduced me to it and I loved the idea of a creative challenge. The Hubs picked on me about ‘my novel’ all month; you have no idea how many times I heard various bits from this that November:
But by the end of the month, he (and our friends) were cheering me on and on the last night of November, I surpassed the 50k word goal and won. It was a wonderful feeling of accomplishment, even though I didn’t actually finish the story (an awfully awesome Lifetime-movie-esque love story named ‘Almost November’). I’ve actually never gone back to look at that story until today while writing this blog post, and now I see so many aspects of my life at the time infused in it. Maybe one day I’ll refine and finish. Here’s a little excerpt of that novel:
“Do you see it?” Dave grabbed Bella’s finger and used it to point at the sky. “That cluster of three stars right there.”
“Ohhh, those! Yeah, I see it!”
“That’s Orion’s belt. If you look on either side, see those little stars? Those are his arms, the ones below them are his feet. See him now?”
“Yeah!” Bella laughed with excitement, stretching her arms over her head.
Dave rolled over onto his side and looked at her.
“Hasn’t anyone shown you a constellation before?”
“Nope.” Bella turned and propped her head up on one arm. She picked a blade of grass from the ground beneath them and poked the tip of Dave’s nose with it. “I’m from the city, remember. I was lucky if I saw any stars at all.”
Bella rolled back over onto her back and stretched out on the grass. She gazed up at the stars above where she and Dave lay in the park. The bustling sounds of the village hummed softly in the background and the crickets chirped songs from the lush green surrounding the park. A soft breeze gently blew over them, fluttering a lock of her hair across Dave’s eyes. Bella turned her head toward him and smiled as he picked it up gingerly and played with it.
“Dave,” she said quietly.
“Do you believe in fate?”
Dave brushed her hair across his cheek, like an artist with a paintbrush.
“Yes and no.”
“What do you mean?” Bella asked, staring at the sky.
“I think you decide your own fate. I think there are some things that you can’t control, that life just throws at you. But you have to decide what to do with them. You can control your own direction, you just have to handle what life gives you your way, ya know what I mean?”
Bella scrunched her brow thoughtfully.
Dave released the lock of hair as she turned onto her side again and faced him.
“Sometimes I wonder if I am strong enough to steer things my own way.”
He touched her cheek softly, brushing her skin with his knuckles.
“You have a silent strength that I don’t think you have recognized yet, my Bell. That is one of the things I love about you.”
Bella caught his gaze and stared at him intently, trying to tell him with her eyes everything she couldn’t say.
“And the fact that you see that is one of the things I love about you, Dave.”
Every November since I wrote that story, I have thought about participating again (I even came really close back in 2011) but something has always stopped me. This year, it is finally perfect timing. After feeling creatively blocked and overwhelmed by other things in life, having an open-ended creative challenge like this will give me something to accomplish without too much pressure. And the process may be helpful for me in other ways, since I am writing about a widow. Here is the brief synopsis of the novel (the only plan I have, since I am totally pantsing this), tentatively titled ‘Wanderlust’:
Life as Eloise Barrett knew it died six months ago. After the tragic loss of her husband, Eloise feels trapped in a life she doesn’t understand anymore. So she takes to the road, clothing and memories stuffed into the back of an impulsively-bought Airstream, desperate to discover herself and her new life somewhere along the way.
This is NOT going to be a fictionalized version of my own personal memoir, at all. But I do intend to draw inspiration from my own feelings a widow to fuel the perspective of my main character. I think the process of writing her adventures will help me explore some of my own grief in a rear-view-mirror kind of way. It should be interesting to see what comes of it. And perhaps as I see where her dreams and plans take her as the story develops, I will discover some of my own. I have no expectations for a finished novel at the end of the month, nor do I plan to do anything with the writing when I am done. But who knows, maybe it will turn out to be a gem.
Have you ever heard of NaNo? Are you participating this year? If so, be my writing buddy! I love swapping encouragement. I’ll be posting small excerpts and word counts throughout the month here on the blog too. Here’s to a month of creativity!