This is my tenth NaNoWriMo. In 2005, my husband and a dear friend declared they would be participating in this writing event I’d never heard of: National Novel Writing Month. They would be attempting to write 50K words in 30 days or bust! In an unexamined act of solidarity, I said I would show my support of their brave quest by joining them (every quest needs a heroine). I imagined we would be a committed trio of writers taking up a table at the local cafe, with words flowing onto the page (real or virtual), until the very end of the month. But it didn’t quite work out that way.
In the first week, our friend fell by the wayside as work commitments subsumed his ambitions to write “that novel” he’d been dreaming of.
In the second week, my husband admitted that he’d hit a roadblock, and would not be continuing. (I’ve since learned this is what’s called the Triggering Event in story structure)
And there I was. The only one at the table at the cafe, in a race with time, in a challenge I’d not even embraced as my own. But at that very moment, when I realized I had written close to 20K words and was almost at the halfway mark, I knew I couldn’t give up. More than that, I didn’t want to give up. I was knee deep in my regency zombie story (I can’t say for sure whether I started this story before Steve Hockensmith started Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but I’m going to give myself the benefit of the doubt and say that I did). I also really wanted to know how my story was going to turn out. I’d gotten my heroine in trouble and I was pretty sure she was smart enough to get herself out of it, when the time came. (I’ve learned that this is the 1st Turning Point in story structure)
Fast forward to the last day of November and I have 5K more words to write and my wonderful husband asks me to go a family dinner that night. I was torn. I wanted to write, but…I went to dinner that night with the family and did not finish my 50K, and I did not win NaNoWriMo 2005. (This is the 2nd Triggering Event, the Deepening of the Problem, and the 2nd Turning Point all rolled into one, if you are keeping up with story structure.)
But “it was the beginning of a beautiful relationship” to paraphrase that famous Casablanca line. I have finished every year since that first NaNoWriMo and have even tried my hand at Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July. I have written a regency zombie tale (mostly), women’s fiction, non-fiction, a story about the circus, and, most significantly, I started my epic fantasy novel. It took me three different years of NaNoWriMo to complete the first novel, The Song of All. But by that last round, in 2011, I not only had a 160K word novel that needed all kinds of editing, I also could no longer deny the fact that I had indeed become a writer. (This is what’s called the Resolution, where the heroine is transformed by her experiences and hopefully the reader is as well.)