What is NaNoWriMo?

The sunset on November 1, 2020. There are some dark silhouetted clouds with a bit of orange color on the horizon. Photo by Anna Loscotoff.

Welcome to November and National Novel Writing Month! Yep, you heard that right, National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo. This is the month where hundreds of thousands of writers from all around the world come together to write, to let go of their inner critic, to start on the first draft of a new novel, to complete 50,000 words in 30 days. But it’s not just for adults, NaNoWriMo also offers a Young Writer Program where children under the age of 18 can set their own writing goals for the month of November. NaNoWriMo is a non-profit, it’s a social support network, and it’s a community.

This is my first year of committing to the process. 50,000 words is pretty intimidating! It means writing without editing (I am a constant re-reader and ongoing editor). It means trying to let go of personal judgement (you know that super mean, critical inner voice telling you that you just aren’t good enough? Yeah, it can get pretty loud sometimes.) It means trying not to judge myself when I don’t get to my daily goal of 2,000 words (some days 2,000 words can be easy, and on other’s, it’s a fight of epic proportion.)

It also means supporting my daughter through the process, despite school and anxiety and her own artistic passion projects. What I love above the Young Writers Program is that she can set whatever goal is appropriate for her. You can find the Young Writers Goals here. They receive badges as they go and can type their story directly onto the site. The YWP keeps track of their word count, freeing them up to experiment with their words.

Computer screen shot of my figuring out ages and relationships between characters for NaNoWriMo, 2020.  Photo by Anna Loscotoff.
What do you do when your character has lots of sisters and you need to figure out how they all fit together? Using an age calculator to learn more about their relationships and interactions.

One of the rules of NaNoWriMo is to not start your story until November 1st, but you can lay the groundwork. You can establish the world where your story takes place, your characters, your outline. I didn’t do any of that. I wanted to, but I was stuck with what story I wanted to write. There was the young adult trilogy that has been bouncing around my brain for years. There was the small town ghost story with a tiny bit of history thrown in. There was the graphic pagan romance. Ultimately, I’ve decided on a YA story that links to the middle grade book I’ve been working on.

The middle grade novel, The Mourning Rose, has a little write up here. I’ve been editing this book for forever! And through the editing process I’ve realized, maybe I need to tell Rose’s story first. And once I’ve told her story, perhaps the middle grade it’s based on will grow up too. Perhaps Ellie isn’t 13, perhaps she’s 16 and on a mission of her own.

There is a saying that there are a three of writers: Planners, Pantsers, and recently added, the Plantser. Planners plan their novels, they know where they are headed and how they are going to get there. Pantsers just fly by the seat of their pants. And Plantsers are somewhere in the middle; they think know where they are headed, they have established ideas, but they aren’t afraid to deviate from the path and the book may head in a completely unexpected direction. I would say I’m a Plantser. I know Rose’s story, I know where this story is headed, but I haven’t completely figured out her world yet.

The sun sets with a sky full of grey clouds and wispy white streaks.  A little color from the sunset sits on the horizon.  Photo by Anna Loscotoff.
As the sun sets on November 1st, 2020, we start our NaNoWriMo writing journey. Photo by Anna Loscotoff.

As the sun set on our first day of National Novel Writing Month, I’m already behind. I did not hit my 2,000 word goal. I realized that as I began Rose’s story, she has sisters. She has a lot of sisters. I needed to spend some time with them today, to figure out who they were and how they play into Rose’s story. Once I know them a little better, I will have new characters to write with. Tomorrow I will continue to write, off on my journey of 50,000 words.

Links

Join us on this journey at NaNoWriMo

The Young Writers Program at YWPNaNoWriMo

Why is this under the Daily Sunset category?

Manzanar

The rays of a sun shine out to the upper right and lower left as it sets behind a hill

I love the feel of the air as it changes into fall.  There is a dry whisp of a scent.  Two different temperatures; a warmth to the front of the breeze but something colder just behind.  I find myself thinking of the interment camps of WWII, and what it was to be taken from your home, to watch a sunset in a place unfamiliar to you.  To watch the sun set behind Mt. Whitney from Manzanar as the weather turned cold. 

The last rays of a sunset come through the weeds in silhouette
The last rays of the sun shine on Sept 28, 2020.

The Japanese internment camps of WWII have been present in my thoughts the last few months.  It started with reading, “Snow Falling on Cedars” in April.  I knew about the camps, but that book, so beautifully written, re-awoke me to the time in our country when land was taken, Japanese immigrants and citizens imprisoned (anyone with Japanese ancestry classified as “enemy aliens”), families torn apart.  This weekend I finished reading, “Daughter of Moloka’i” which also explores the Japanese-American isolation of WWII. I didn’t understand how the land was worked and developed in Florin (Sacramento), California by Japanese families.  I didn’t realize the early relocation camps involved housing people in dirty horse stalls at race tracks. I didn’t understand how businesses were sold for nothing, that there were no options allowing those of Japanese ancestry to hold on to what they had built.

I didn’t know that residents in internment camps were asked to fill out forms which, depending on their answers, could label them “loyal” or “disloyal”.  Question 27 asked if you would be willing to serve as a soldier or a nurse in the war.  Imagine the fear in making this decision; to say no could mark you as disloyal, to say yes could mean leaving your young children or your elderly parents in the dire landscape of internment.  Question 28 asked “Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States… and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, to any other foreign government, power or organization?”  For those who were immigrants, forbidden US citizenship, would it leave them without a country?  If Japan won this war, would they be killed or tortured for signing this form? If they didn’t sign the form, would they ever leave the camps?

My daughter will be reading “Farewell to Manzanar” this year, an unexpected assignment again connecting us to this time and place. She broke down last nigh, feeling like she has been betrayed by history in that this is something she is only learning now.  I explained that I’m learning too. 

A yellow and orange light around the Tehachapi Mountains after the sun has set
The last colors of the sunset on Sept 28, 2020

And so I watch the sun set, and think about how it must have been almost 80 years ago, with the wind shifting towards winter. 

Links:

Japanese Internment from The History Channel

Japanese Americans and The US Constitution – The Questionnaire

Books:

Snow Falling on Cedar by David Guterson

Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Farewell to Manzanar by James D. Houston and Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

A Daily Sunset

A sun sets to the left of the frame, disappearing behind a hill. There is a field of golden light in the front.

On May 29th there was one of those sunsets where you can’t help but watch and dream. It split the sky; light and dark, orange and gray and purple. On that night I made a commitment to myself, to spend time each evening watching the day fade away. To take a photograph of each sunset. To acknowledge the transition from day to night. To slow down and participate in the rhythms of nature.

A dramatic sunset of oranges, grays, and purples.  The sunset is split with clouds, creating an image both dark and light.
Sunset on May 29th, Tehachapi Mountains, California

Since that night, I have not missed a sunset. There are nights I’ve been a bit early, others where I have been a tad bit late. I’ve taken a photo of every one. Through the month of July, the sunsets were straight forward and the sun dipped behind a hill with very little color or drama. In September, the sun took a new color with the smoke of California’s fires. One evening the smoke was so thick, the sun just disappeared into the haze. I have watched the sun travel south, down my horizon from it’s summer point furthest north.

The sun is a small red ball disappearing past a hill, surrounded by California wildfire smoke.  The landscape looks red.
The sun sets in California wildfire smoke, September 7, 2020.

These are the dailies; the raw, unedited footage of my life. A flower I thought was pretty. A line of ants marching on. A quote, a thought, a sunset.