Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Three Lessons Learned

Photo by LollyKnit.

When NaNoWriMo started on November 1, I had stars in my eyes. I had dreams of days and nights of literary abandon. Lofty ideas of ending the month with a beautiful 50,000-word story worthy of the Newbery Award.

That's not what I got, though.

On December 1, I woke up with crust in my eyes. The kind you get when you spend more time screaming at your computer than you do taking care of your body and getting the rest you need.

And those dreams of literary abandon? Forget it. What I got was several sessions of teeth gnashing smack in the middle of the month. I haunted the hallways of our house, moaning and groaning, questioning How did I end up with a village full of Mary Poppins wannabes in this book? Where is the conflict? How can I stand another minute of writing about these very nice characters with no life worth reading about? I came very close to quitting.

But I wanted the bragging rights that go along with posting 50,000 words on the NaNoWriMo site by November 30. I trudged on.

About two-thirds of the way into my literary desert, I woke up one day sick and tired of going nowhere fast. I started pounding away at the computer and threw my heroine, a 12-year old girl, in the dungeon and demanded she find her way out. The dungeon had nothing to do with my story, but by golly, that girl needed some conflict! Several days of conflict and clever dialogue followed, and my word count soared.

In the end, I submitted 50,028 words. (Notice I said words, not story or book.) I did not end up with a proper beginning, middle, and end to my story. I did, however, win the battle with myself. I dragged me--kicking and screaming, most days--to that hallowed NaNoWriMo finish line. And I won.

Thankfully, I also learned a few things along the way:
  1. Before NaNoWriMo, the thought of writing one thousand words in one day used to scare the heebie-jeebies out of me. Now, though, pounding out one thousand words in one day strikes me as something I might choose to do on vacation. Are you kidding me? Give me a challenge!
  2. Thanks to NaNoWriMo, my main character has a fascinating best friend who keeps my main character in line, provides comic relief, and well may be worthy of his own series and/or Newbery Award. Someday.
  3. When stuff gets hard, when I get off track, when I wonder What the heck was I thinking anway?--whether it's writing a book, a new diet or exercise program, a decorating project, or a stab at NaNoWriMo 2010--I know I have what it takes to cross that finish line. Even if I have to drag me kicking and screaming.