Tag Archives: National Novel Writing Month

I Lost My Wife to NaNoWriMo

I’m an NaNoWriMo widower… at least to an extent.

If you’re not familiar with NaNoWriMo—or can’t remember when I’ve talked about it before (I sympathize, believe me)—NaNoWriMo is internetspeak for National Novel Writing Month, and you can find out more about it at nanowrimo.org. The simple definition is this: you write 50,000 words in a month. The aim is to write a short, completed novel, though some begin early and use that crunch to finish—or at least get close to finishing—a novel. It happens every November. The idea behind this is to get the story down on paper. Don’t edit. Don’t polish. Just write. What my wife calls word vomit.

Yes, we’re back to my wife again.

See, I got married in July to the woman I’ve spent my life looking for. Less than four months later, she’s writing a cozy mystery for NaNoWriMo. In and of itself, I love the idea, and I’m fully supportive. But as I write this, it’s November 7th, and I miss her already.

See, to achieve this goal, she has to write an average of 1,667 words a day (50,000 ÷ 30 = 1,666.66667, for you math nerds), and she has to do this in the evenings after she gets home from her day job (you know, that nasty thing we writers have to have to do things like eat food). And that means she has very little time to spend with… me.

I know: cry me a river.

Though this post is largely tongue-in-cheek, I have to be honest and reiterate that I support her fully. Way back when we reconnected (my wife and I once knew one another more years ago than I care to talk about), during the catch-up stage, I told her I was a writer and had four books published. She admitted that had been a dream of hers all her life.

See how we’re so well-matched?

But here’s the thing: she saw my writing, and that of the people I associate with, and I think it intimidated her. After that initial mention of wanting to be a writer, she didn’t bring it up again.

And that bothered me.

See, I’d read some of her Facebook posts. And thesis papers. And I knew she could write, if she’d just give herself permission to. But I had trouble convincing her of that.

I stayed patient, though, not because I’m a saint, but because every writer in history has been there: we want to write, but have no confidence in our abilities to do so. We want to be (insert name of favorite author here) right off the bat without going through whatever (favorite author) went through to get that good. It’s normal, and very human, and it’s not limited to writers and would-be writers. I’d guess every creative person is that way.

What separates the wheat from the chaff—or elevates a would-be to a writer—is the discipline to put butt in chair and write. You gotta have your chops, and while meditation is a good thing, it will never totally replace action, especially when it comes to being creative. At a certain point you simply have to do something about your dreams, rather than just dreaming them.

My wife loves cozy mysteries, and she came up with an idea for one (I refuse to share it here until she’s done with it) that I think is excellent, and it draws on her own experience, which will make it more authentic. She’s let me read most of it as she finishes each section, with the caveat that I turn my editing off, and it’s excellent, especially for someone who said she couldn’t write. I’m not much on cozies, but I know good writing when I see it, and she’s got it.

I encouraged her, so I guess I’m getting my just desserts.

But you know what? That’s okay. It’s made her happier than I’ve seen her yet, and she loves that I believe in her, and that makes it worth anything I could go through. After all, she sits in bed to write while I’m reading (how’s that for a hot time in the bedroom?), so we’re still spending time together, and it doesn’t get much better than that.

Only twenty-three more days to go…


NaNo and Other Stuff

I just wanted to throw a few things out there tonight. It’s late, I’m tired, so it may sound like what it is: a ramble.

First of all, NaNo. I know I’ve mentioned this before, and even given links, but I haven’t really explained what it is. So this is for those of you who didn’t follow the links.

NaNo, or NaNoWriMo, stands for National Novel Writing Month. I was introduced to this by my daughter, who does it every year (there’s a huge back story there, which we won’t really get into on this blog. Let’s just say my daughter and I were separated for a long time). NaNo happens every November, and the idea is to write a minimum of 50,000 words in 30 days. For those who are mathematically challenged like me, that works out to 1666.667 words per day (so says my calculator), or 1667 words per day to be realistic. How do you write 0.667 words? Anyway, quality doesn’t count, only quantity. You write your goal, turn it in at the end of the month and you win. That simple.

Did I say simple?

Hmm. Maybe not so simple. I’m a worry wart dad, so I worry about my kid sometimes, because she seems to burn out at the end. Most of the time she writes a different story every day, and sets goals of like 100,000 words to boot. I’m proud of what she achieves, because let’s face it: coming up with thirty new story ideas in thirty days is AWESOME, but it takes a toll on her creativity. I think she’s doing a full novel this year, thank goodness. The point of NaNo, though is for you to finish. It’s not important how good it is. You can go back later and polish it up. In other words, this is a confidence builder, plain and simple. It’s there so you can look back at it and decide that if you can do 50,000 words in one month, writing a novel at a more leisurely pace shouldn’t be so bad.

This got me to thinking (that usually means trouble).

If you’re a regular reader of this blog (and I’m so sorry I’m not such a regular writer on this blog), you know that my last post was all about how you plan or don’t plan your novel. Well, thinking about NaNo made me remember when I wrote my urban fantasy that I’m about to start shopping to some agents. See, I wrote that one in about three or four months, and I didn’t plot it. I had a few false starts before I found out the right way to tell the story, but I eventually found a character I liked to be my Magus and went with it. The basic idea behind this story, working title The First Born, is that a Magus and a vampire have to work together. This usually doesn’t happen in the world I’ve created, because Magi protect normal humans, which they call the unAware, from vampires and other nasties. Unfortunately, there are some even nastier nasties who have come to town and the vampire is hunting them down for various reasons. Circumstances force her to work with a Magus and the story goes on from there.

The vampire character actually belonged to a friend of mine, and the idea for the book came about one day when I said to her, “What would happen if your vampire came across a wizard?” Well, since her vampire existed in modern times, I had to change the wizard a bit, call him a Magus (plural Magi). I decided to call them Magi because that’s a term that’s been around for a long time. I would also like to point out that I wrote this novel before the current craze, and my vampires don’t get along with one another. I’m glad I did that, because I don’t see them as romantic figures a la Twilight (which I have never read and probably never will), so it makes my story a little different. Good for me.

What I’m trying to get to in a very rambling way is that I wanted my friend to read this and see if I portrayed her vampire correctly. Since the character was basically an RP character she’d invented, the vampire was basically her and I wanted to be sure it met her standards. So I started mailing her chapters as I wrote them. She seemed to like it, miracle of miracles, considering how raw it was when she got it (and how much work it eventually needed to get it polished up). That gave me a sort of deadline, though, and pushed me to finish the novel. I’d made am implicit promise to keep writing until I delivered a finished product to her, regardless of how horrible it might turn out to be.

And then I paired that with something I read on Jasmine’s Corner (if I’m not totally confused, that is) in which she stated that she needs a deadline in order to produce. If I’ve gotten this mixed up, I apologize. Again, it’s late and I’m tired. The point is, maybe I need a deadline, too. Perhaps I should start setting some kind of deadline, or have someone to whom I must show a certain amount of work. Someone who’s expecting me to continually produce something. I’ve always had problems imposing a deadline of any kind on myself, but maybe if I feel that someone else is waiting for me to do this it would work. Kinda like the old serials from the 1800s, or the way The Green Mile was originally written by Stephen King (which led to some amusing mistakes).

I have a sequel to The First Born partially written, and though the original friend I was writing it for isn’t expecting it, someone else near and dear to me is. I sent her what I have written and I have to wonder now if she’s a little disappointed in me because I haven’t buckled down and finished it. I initially sent it to get her opinion on it, because she’d read The First Born and liked it. Maybe that’ll be good motivation to finish the second one, working title The Hierarchy (I’m not especially inventive when it comes to titles. I kinda fall into the Stephen King/Robert Ludlum school there and keep em simple).

So what about you? When you write, does an impending deadline serve to motivate you more? Or does it put undue pressure on you and distract you from your creativity? Let me know what you think.