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Front Porch: Writing challenge conquered

Sat., Dec. 28, 2013

Throughout November I was obsessed with word counts. Checking, typing, re-checking, tallying, then updating my count.

I signed up for National Novel Writing Month – or NaNoWriMo, for short.

Over the past two years I’ve thought of tackling this challenge. This year I ignored the I’ll-never-reach-the- 50,000-word-count thoughts with gritted teeth and a steely – some would say stupid – resolve.

Once signed up, NaNoWriMo jumped in full throttle, dispersing the negative thoughts every writer experiences and reviving the dead muse lying across the floor with daily emails from ego boosting guest writers who hurdled the NaNoWriMo 50,000 word challenge and lived to tell the tale. Included in the mix are a humorous dedicated staff and volunteers who keep your hands on the keyboard, mind flowing and heart twirling with delight.

It isn’t easy. After all, this a month-long commitment begins just after Halloween, with Thanksgiving fast approaching and Christmas sitting holly jolly on the horizon. November is the jam-up month and into the pre-holiday gridlock, I added in a couple of trips, including one to California for turkey day. Many would think my resolution to NaNoWriMo was sunk the day we arrived.

But fear not. This determined writer refused to allow warm, sunny weather, a stunning deck that overlooks a wooded forest where deer and antelope – and an occasional coyote – play, or a visit to historic Placerville, to hijack this resolution.

At the crack of dawn, I was diligently typing, resuming again late at night after everyone had bid farewell for the evening. My characters jumped, time lines bounced, Grand Canyon-size plot holes exploded, but every successful NaNo says the key to writing 50,000 words in one month is to ignore editing gremlins. “Just write!” they insist.

And so, I did.

If I were truthful with myself, if I had allowed reality to overtake the challenge, I’d admit there was no way I could’ve kept that word count resolution. For several months, my book held me captive in a never-ending editing circle. I didn’t think I had it in me to “just write” but the daily encouragement from the NaNos helped me discover something new about myself.

On Nov. 29 at 2 in the morning, and in spite of massive mistakes, my novel came to a conclusion with a word count of 50,466. The house was quiet except for snoring dogs and husband, noises that I blocked out for two hours while my characters raced to the finish line inside a plot that threw in one mind-boggling monkey wrench after another. I submitted my story and an eternity of two minutes passed before “You’re a winner!” flashed on my screen.

The rewards after these long tumultuous hours of hair pulling and mind-numbing typing are mostly in the personal satisfaction department, but NaNoWriMo throws in a few bones of opportunity that allow novice writers such as myself to dream. December begins the month of did-I-really-write-that? editing, but with the enticement of NaNo’s prizes, publishing hopes are suddenly within reach.

For a writer, there’s no better way to bring in the New Year then with a bucket-load of hope.


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