Most of us are aware that every November for the past 14 years has been not about college football or turkey, but about writing. I probably have been wanting to do NaNoWriMo for the past ten or so, but I’ve always had a reason not to. Most recently it’s been law school, before that it was enjoying the last few months I was going to have with my husband before basic training, then it was being a new airman stationed overseas… I always had a reason. That was until this year. I’m unemployed, my husband and I are transitioning from active duty military back to civilian life, I can’t even start to look for work until December so this year, I decided to write.
I realize the month isn’t over and these words are not being added to my word count, but I feel compelled to write this. I’m a ridiculous reader. Reading for me is akin to breathing. I’m talking about reading for pleasure. I had friends in law school or in grad school that didn’t read a book for pleasure for three years or more. The idea of doing that is insanity to me, don’t get me wrong, I love those guys and most of them did better than me academically, but I need that escape.
So, I’ve read a lot of books and articles about writing books too and one of the seemingly universal things that fiction authors seem to say is that they have no control over their characters or their stories, that they’re along for the ride. I want to make a confession, I’ve always thought that was bullshit. Then I started down this NaNoWriMo path…
I’m currently about 22,000 words in to the 50,000 needed to ‘win’. This is about 45 single spaced typed pages. I started November with a silly concept of a YA novel with a spunky girl and a mysterious manicurist who speaks very little but gives flashes of psychic power to our heroine to help her ultimately solve crimes. It was going to be light, fun, and ultimately turn into a multi-million dollar franchise with movie options. But seriously, I was just writing to write. It didn’t matter if it sucked but I was going to have fun with it.
Well less than 10,000 words in somehow that whole plan evaporated. My main character, instead is dealing with mental illness, awful parents, and a little brother who is growing up aimless. The manicurist is nowhere to be found anymore.
This story isn’t autobiographical, though I have experience with some of those things, but regardless the writing has been painful, putting down some of the things that my main character is experiencing is one of the most uncomfortable things that I’ve ever done. While I still feel compelled to tell my main character’s story, part of me dreads it. I’ve been averaging about 3,000 words a day, I have no problem with the words coming but telling this story (though completely fictional) makes my heart ache.
I always expected that writing a novel would be hard, but the pain has been something completely unexpected for me. I expected to not be sure about plot points or to struggle with not knowing the intricacies of nail salons. I guess I expected my struggle to be more technical and less personal. I don’t know if that says something about me, my novel, or both.
How has NaNoWriMo surprised you?