Friday, November 4, 2011

Distraction: AKA NaNoWriMo

Yeah, it's November.

I'm a month and two days away from the the one year anniversary of the worst day of my life.  I know that it's stored in my brain.  Although so much of December and January is a black blur (seriously there was a moment last week when I was trying to remember what we did for Christmas last year...  Oh, that's right.  Our baby died and I spent Christmas wishing I were dead, too.) I know that day is recorded in my mind in vivid technicolor.  And you know what?  I lived through it once.  I am so not ready to go back there again.

So distraction is the name of the game.  And while to many people November is the start of the holiday season, it is also National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaNoWriMo).

The idea is that so many of us sit around thinking, "Someday, I will write my novel."  And then because we have our entire lives to do it, it never gets done.  Even those of us who are uncomfortably aware of how fleeting life can be have trouble scheduling time to write, what with being very busy talking about commas to college freshmen who are patently uninterested in commas, grading essays full of comma errors, preparing lessons about comma usage, conference with students about papers full of said comma errors, wondering if we really understand how to use commas ourselves, and then getting home, happy to not think about commas, only to deal with the needs of two high-maintenance canines and a very demanding television-watching schedule.  Somehow the idea of writing a novel remains just that--an idea.

So the purpose of NaNoWriMo is to give you 30 days to write a 50,000 word novel (roughly 200-ish pages).  That's not enough time to obsessively edit or revise or fret about dialogue.  You just have to get it out.  Move it from your brain to your computer.

So I'm doing it.  Even though I have exams and essays to grade.  Even though I have to read Chaucer (ugh) for Monday.  Even though it's getting cold and it's getting dark so early and all I want to do when I get home is curl up on the sofa and watch The Good Wife.

And I'm talking about it here because I am supposed to make a public announcement that I'm doing it so that I will be shamed into finishing it when I want to quit 'round about the week before Thanksgiving.  I am making a pledge on this blog that I will finish this novel.  And if I don't, you guys have to harass and verbally flog me in the comments.

I can't promise I'll ever let anyone see it.  But I can promise it will get written.

Oh, you want a brief plot summary?  OK.  Graduate student working on her master's thesis in English has bad break-up with long-time boyfriend.  Heads home to spend the summer at her parents' house in a small (FICTIONAL) town in rural Missouri, where she hopes to get some research done for her thesis on the Ku Klux Klan in her local area (which, gasp!, turns out to still be active in the present time!).  She ends up uncovering a murder plot, discovering deep dark family secrets, and getting herself involved in a love triangle.  And one of the boys in the love triangle wears Wranglers.

It's a light, fun novel.  Well, except for the murder and the Klan research.  I take that back.  Let's just say that it has nothing to do with dead babies.

I'm already 5,000 words in, but I'm still sketching out the plot.  I gave David the long-winded version of it as we walked the dogs earlier this week.  I kept saying things like, "I think that her parents are out of town on business, but I'm not really sure," and he would say, "How can you not know?  You're the one writing it."  Lots of details to figure out, but I'm having fun pondering them.  I came up a great idea for one scene while getting a massage on Tuesday, and thought of another subplot last night as I was drifting off to sleep.

And the truth is that NaNoWriMo couldn't come at a better time.  I've spent the last 11 months sorting through my thoughts and trying to articulate my emotions, struggling to come to grips with my grief and my luck and my love and how the hell this ended up being my life.

And honestly?  I'm a little freaking sick of myself.

Time to get out of my head and get into someone else's for a while (in this case, a twenty-five year old girl named Harper Mills, whom I picturing looking like Kristin Bell).  I'm not looking forward to winter, and I really need a distraction (that is NOT work- or comma-exercise-related).  I'm pleased to say that so far, this is doing the job nicely.  I'll keep you posted as the month goes on...


  1. That's awesome that you are going for it. I have never been a great writer and definitely need some lessons in comma usage. I have always loved reading your posts though, so I am sure the novel will be great, even if you don't want to share any of it with us.

  2. Good luck on the novel! I'm participating in NaBloPoMo for the first time, so even though I'm not feeling the pressure of writing a novel, I'm feeling the pressure. My undergrad is in English & I once thought I wanted to be become a professor, so I empathize with the comma lessons.

  3. Sounds like a good distraction project, but if you for some reason don't finish there will be no verbal flogging from me and that is a promise!

    And as far as the not remembering how last Christmas went is because it happened in "the lost year" that's what our support group leader calls it. She said anything that happened in the year after her son died is known as the lost year because that whole year is cloudy. I thought that was the perfect way to describe it. If we hadn't kept up with these blogs we probably wouldn't remember anything.

    PS I love the quote from the headstone you shared with me. It's not one I would use either, but it is beautiful and striking.

  4. Good luck! I will gladly volunteer to be your sounding board, you know where I am!

  5. AWESOME. I will totally take you out for lunch when you come here for your book tour!

  6. How wonderful! I hope you decide to one day share with us. :)

  7. Well I'm not sick of you! I get excited everytime I see a new blog from you. Lame? Yeah, sort of. But sounds like a great project. I'd read it :)

  8. I linked over from Angie's blog ( I'm also doing NaNoWriMo [EngineerAmy]. Good luck, and if you need an NaNoWriMo buddy, please add me!


  9. So great! I did this last year, and it was fun. I missed writing on a deadline!

  10. Very cool- you are an awesome writer so I know it will be a great novel. I'm not sure if it's too late but I'm going to check it out too.