"So, Elle," you ask. "What are you going to do now that you've written your novel?"
Well, do it again. What did you think?
The manuscript I'm working on is actually the product of a very cool tradition that occurs every year. I'd encourage young writers everywhere to get on board and become part of the celebration.
NaNoWriMo. Or, National Novel Writing Month.
Hosted each November by the nonprofit Office of Letters and Light, NaNoWriMo is a creative effort where participants pledge to write a novel in a month (50,000 words). There's a handy dandy website to get you started. You'll get daily word count goals, graphs to show if you're on target, emails with pep talks to get you through, and an online community with forums ranging from plot tips and character development to music playlists for writing and procrastination stations.
It's a month long sprint to the finish. 50,000 words works out to 1,667 words per day or a little over three pages single spaced. Last year, I cheated a little because I'd written the first chapter or two of Momentum in October, but I wrote the meat and potatoes of the plot during NaNo. Someone turned me on to the program a week into November and I was side-tracked by Thanksgiving (the big get together holiday in my family) so I did not reach my goal of 50,000 words. I wrote somewhere around 30,000 which ended up being nearly half of the book. That's a pretty good stretch for one month!
NaNo is not about writing the best thing ever put on paper (though some manuscripts have gone on to do well); it's about sitting down and doing it. It's about turning off your inner editor. It's about creating an online community of young writers who want to cultivate their talents. It's about connecting minds.
This year, I will be starting something completely new. It's an idea that's been in my head for a while but I recently had the catalyst thought that made it come together. Is my plot thought out and outlined? No. Do I know where I want to end it? Not at all. But that is the beauty of NaNo. You don't have to know. You just have to start.
Now, writing that much in a month doesn't lend itself to works of art. Momentum was a hot mess by the end of the month. That's what the rest of the year is spent doing. Revision, revision, revision. But I like to use NaNo to learn to write fearlessly. Write without a care in the world. Write knowing there are others out there who are struggling with you and no matter what, don't give up.
That's not all I've got up my sleeve for this coming month. I've been quiet on this because I've been busy elsewhere. I am in the middle of Momentum's revision. I've written first drafts of three new short stories for my writing classes. They'll need to be revised this month too. I'm flirting with the idea of going for my MFA in the next year. I am picking out literary magazines I hope to submit stories to.
November will definitely be a busy month but I'm feeling very clear headed, as clear as I've felt in a long time.
One thing I've taken away from my classes with all my critiques, both good and bad, is that I am in the right place. Now it is about making it happen.