I am thrilled to announce that I have officially signed up to participate in NaNoWriMo 2016! My main goal in doing so is to complete a first draft of the chapter book version of my picture book manuscript Allyson in the Islands by November 30th. I’m very excited to buckle down and tackle this project—so excited that I’m itching to “cheat” by starting early! True to the spirit of the endeavor, however, I’m distracting myself for the last few days of October by reading similar titles for inspiration and instruction, reviewing my plot outline and notes, and commiserating on discussion boards.
I do have a couple of ancillary goals for engaging in this frenzied process, as well. I need to kickstart my daily writing habit. Since I finished the first draft of my novel Dirty back in January, I’ve been “writing to assignment,” pushing out pages of revision on demand for my one-on-one tutorial or for monthly submissions to my writing group. And while the second draft is progressing on schedule in this manner, I do require a degree of original composition in my life on a regular basis. The ability to write fiction is like a muscle: if you don’t exercise it, it atrophies. So I’m taking a break from the complexity and pressure of adult fiction to indulge in the pure poetry and joy of writing a simpler, more fantastical story.
I’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo twice before. In 2003, while in between full-time gigs, I dashed out a rough draft of my first attempt at a novel, Under L: A Catalogue of Little Lies Lovers Tell One Another. That manuscript has Issues, with a capital ‘I’. The bulk of the story is told in summary, and a major plot thread drops like a loose stitch two-thirds of the way through. But I won—I wrote 50,644 words in 30 days! And it’s not all throw-away material. In fact, once I’ve got Dirty where I want it, I intend to do a page-one rewrite of Under L because that draft reads like a viable proof of concept, full of fun and great potential.
I did not win a decade later when I tried to leverage NaNoWriMo to get that elusive first draft of Dirty down. My timing was off. I was spinning up a freelance content writing and editorial business, and had just enrolled in my first class in the Online Writing Certificate Program at Stanford. I’d significantly underestimated how much brain and body power I’d need to invest in both pursuits in order to succeed at them. To be honest, I was quite disappointed with myself in 2013. I mean, I’d killed it the first time around and fully expected to continue in that vein. Ultimately, though, this failure proved to be an advantage for that project. It gave me the space I needed to absorb and implement the craft lessons I learned through the OWC, resulting in a much stronger foundation for the manuscript I wrote two years later.
I’m optimistic I can bring both my success and failure to bear this year as I undertake my third NaNoWriMo. There will be complications: I have a very consuming, full-time job now, with a major deadline looming in early December. I’ve never written a chapter book before, and I’m not sure I fully understand the requirements of the form or genre. And I’m going to Hawaii for a week at Thanksgiving. But I have a few friends who are also participating, and I’ve gotten great responses to my logline on the discussion boards. I feel supported and energized. Bring on November!
Note: If you’re doing NaNoWriMo 2016, be sure to add me as a Writing Buddy. My handle is yeqotz. Thanks, and Happy Writing!