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To Write or Not to Write: My Journey in Writing a Novel

Graphic by Bryan Schiavone '13

It’s eleven o’clock; where are your children? Out with friends? Doing homework? Sleeping?

Or are they noveling?

This has been the case for me every night for the past 30 days of my life.

I’ve been participating in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo is a month-long quest to reach 50,000 words, roughly 200 pages in book format. Participants must write an original novel beginning on Nov. 1 at 12 a.m., and ending on Nov. 30 at 11:59 p.m. It’s a pretty simple concept: 1,667 words per day for 30 days. Shouldn’t be too hard.

At least, that’s what I thought on Nov. 1st. And Nov. 2nd. And 3rd. During these three days, I wrote a total of 11,000 words. I was on top of the world. At that rate, I would finish on Nov. 14th. The words and plot were flowing gracefully and consistently.

Until, suddenly, they stopped.

On Nov. 4th, I hit a wall. The honeymoon period of my noveling month was over, and reality set in.

“Why am I writing a novel, anyway?” I thought. “I mean, It’ll never be published. And my plot is horrible. My main character is annoying me. This chapter is boring. The sentence I just wrote was awkward, and, oh dear god, what’s another synonym of “said?!”’

Less than a week into my endeavor, I was failing. Miserably. And, seemingly, my peers were, too. In fact, they were dropping like flies. By the fifth day, five of my writing buddies had laid down their pencils for good. And I wanted to join them. I, too, wanted to experience a weekend, a day off, a ten-minute break. But my determination was stronger than my doubts. I tucked my thoughts away and got back to what I really should’ve been doing instead of worrying: writing.

And I did write. I wrote thousands upon thousands of words daily. I forgot about school and sleep and my general well-being, and got back to noveling.

At 25,000 words, I was starting to see the brighter side of the challenge that is NaNoWriMo. I had the support of the few friends who were still holding on to their noveling dreams, and I had the enticing prospect of winning. I was half way there, and, if I can write 25,000 words once, I’ll be damned if I can’t do it again. So, I ignored my plot holes and poor writing, and trudged on.

On November 25th I ran out of plot. It’s not that I couldn’t think of any thing more. No, I was ready and willing to write the 4,000 words that I had left until my goal, but my book had ended. Literally. I had written the final scene. It was done.

But 46,000 words, no matter how impressive, will not garner a shiny certificate, infinite praise, and permanent bragging rights. In the NaNoWriMo world, which is surprisingly cut-throat, 46,000 words is a fate worse than death. 46,000 words might as well be zero words. But I could not be failure. Not after all the work I’d done.

So, what did I do? I wrote dreams. I must’ve inserted an irrelevant, mildly amusing dream sequence into every single night of sleep my main character got. In one of my personal favorites, my character meets her runaway father, who performs for her a stunning ice dancing routine for her, before morphing into a speck of dust. The dream ends when her miniature father melts through the ice and plunges to his death.

On Nov. 26th at 10:10 p.m., I was officially a winner. I had written 50,008 words, and I was proud as can be. I wasted no time in notifying the entire planet of my accomplishment. And, why not? I mean, I had just written a novel. An awkward, inconsistent mess of a novel that will take months, if not years of editing. It still counts, though. Right?

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    InceptionDec 13, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Awesome article – I totally want to try writing a novel now. Love the idea of the ice-skating dream sequence — it seems like something straight out of Harry Potter!