In April I tried to take this particular story (currently titled In the Middle) from about 13k to 50k by participating in Camp NaNoWriMo. For those of you not familiar with the way NaNoWriMo works, allow me to explain. The other NaNos want you to write a 50k-word novel in one month (typically November), with emphasis on daily word count goals. If you've got a a big enough stash of junk food and are good at disciplining yourself and/or know how to blacklist most of the Internet from your computer, you will sit down at a computer, write for a month and magically a book appears at the end of it. You grin like a maniac and shake your aching fists in the air proclaiming your triumph over evil--I mean, words! Words! Then you quickly realize you haven't showered in a week (or three), clamp those armpits shut again, and wander off to tell your family they can call off the Search-and-Rescue mission.
If you're not so good at the whole NaNoWriMo thing, nothing happens. You probably have a social life, a job, a family who still likes/recognizes you--all bonuses. The most social we get during NaNoWriMo months is usually comparing word counts on our latest word battles. On Twitter. That's, like, not even a real website. That's people simultaneously yelling their opinions into a crowded room. #yesI'mtalkingtoyou. Sometimes I write on my porch just to remember what the air feels like on my albino skin.
Why do I do this to myself, again? Oh yeah, because I really, really love it.
All kidding aside, the lovely, caffeinated folks behind NaNoWriMo have inspired a staggering number of people to write books. Most of the time, that's a good thing. And, no, I'm not talking about you, E. L. James. Stopit!
The beauty of Camp is the ability to pick a goal for your month of concentrated writing that fits in with your life instead of 50k, which used to be the only option (go big or go home!) Optimistic, or possibly sadistic, I aimed high--That ended up too ambitious of a goal when it all boiled down to it. I lost a horse to old age and arthritis and gained two more within the same month. Historically, I'd say I'm pretty crappy with change, especially change involving the equine species. Emotional upheaval doesn't usually lend itself to my creative process unless you consider my creative process eating a ton of chocolate and threatening to move away because, and I quote, "y'all are crazy!"
I managed six-thousand words that month. That's, like, 1/8 of my goal. Or something. I'm bad at Math. Numbers aside, it was no bueno. My main character stuck in the middle of something big, something that changed the whole storyline... and I couldn't write myself out of it because I lost it all. Poof! The passion that woke me out of hibernation on a frigid Saturday morning fizzled away, even though I knew I had a story worthy of bleeding onto the page. I began to feel anxiety that I would never rescue poor Lucy from her predicament. I feared In the Middle would get buried in the old files on my laptop, never to see the light of day again.
A similar thing happened to me last July (and August. And Septem--do you see where I'm going with this?) while working on the second draft of my first novel. I'd lost my horse and best friend of 19 years to colic and the devastation wiped my mind completely clear of everything, including my creativity. My main character, known for her sarcasm, couldn't think of anything funny to say. For months, literally, I stared at my laptop screen all day, lucky to work out a couple sentences in all of that time. The whole thing seemed pointless and discouraging. I finished the redraft of that first novel only days before NaNoWriMo started up in November. When NaNoWriMo began, I started the sequel to my first novel, which I eventually finished up on January 15th of this year. Can't win 'em all, they say, but I won when I didn't give up. The second book was just the icing on the cake. (Did someone say cake? It is NaNoWriMo again, which means JUNK FOOD! It's for the books, I swear!)
Life, and death, runs in cycles--and I guess it is my Kryptonite, all this grief. And I need to learn to deal with it like Superman does. On second thought, no, probably not. Kryptonite renders him a whiny cry-baby. Dang it! That's the only comic book analogy I have!
Thankfully Camp NaNoWriMo occurs each July, too, which doesn't make a lot of sense to me because it is the worst possible month for a mom of four to accomplish anything beyond brushing her teeth each morning (and often that is questionable). But they didn't design their calendar around me, so I just have to deal. Camp is the perfect excuse to push myself to get back into the habit of writing a lot, so I went for it. This time, I set a goal of 26,394 words to bring "In the Middle" to 50k words. At 3:14 this morning, and six days before my deadline, I hit my mark.
The novel's not completed, as much as I wish it was, but the finish line is so close I can almost taste it (have you ever noticed how much I talk about food? I have.). Now I'm pouring my focus into getting as close as possible to "The End" before July reaches its end. This month's success is the total opposite of last year's July paralysis
Being trapped inside your own head trying to figure out how to heal is not pleasant. Being able to look back and see how far you've come and realize you really CAN do anything is a feeling beyond words. Three-fourteen this morning found me staring at a blinking cursor and the word count screen with my heart bursting full of allllllll the emotions. No one can possibly know what it feels like unless it is your struggle and your triumph. Today I feel very powerful, kinda like the opposite of Superman hugging a bar of Kryptonite. I think the analogy worked that time!
Now back to the story...
**Special thanks goes out to my writing doula, Courtney, whose enthusiasm (or, at least facade of enthusiasm) keeps pushing me to press on even when my eyes are bursting into flames. Thanks to the Camp NaNoWriMo crew, of course. Also, a humungo shout out to the dude who wrote Write or Die! I don't know what it is about that red computer screen that makes me want to type complete gibberish just to make it go away. And, as always, a big "whaddup!" to my muses, Ish and Moe. Keep it up, boys. Mama needs a new pair of riding boots!