Welcome to November and National Novel Writing Month! Yep, you heard that right, National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo. This is the month when 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 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 are pretty intimidating! It means writing without editing (I am a constant re-reader and ongoing editor). It means trying to let go of personal judgment (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 others, it’s a fight of epic proportion.)
It also means supporting my daughter through the process, despite school and anxiety and her artistic passion projects. What I love about 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.
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, and 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 three types 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.
As the sun sets 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.