Keeping Up with National Novel Writing Month

This morning I rendezvoused with three other NaNoWriMo authors for an early lunch at Brueggers Bakery in Albany. They’re decades younger than me, and all three have completed the challenge of writing 50,000 words in one month several times already. But to my amazement, none of them are particularly concerned about getting published – the pleasure and challenge of writing are evidently enough for them, at least for now.

These young women reminded me of why I started writing fiction in the first place – not to become a published author, let alone a successful one, but because I had things to say that I simply had to get down on paper, even if no one else ever read them. If I recover some of that innocent enthusiasm this month, NaNoWriMo will have been well worth while. More than a third of the month is over, and I’ve turned out 18,000 words. That averages out to around 1,500 words a day and keeps me on track to finish on time, but just barely. The NaNo website features occasional pep talks by fellow writers. The first was from Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus, which is currently on the New York Times Best Seller List. She describes how the novel had its genesis during NaNoWriMo as a spin-off from the novel she’d set out to write. Water for Elephants also began as a NaNoWriMo project.

Maybe there’s truly some magic about circuses – they certainly spelled success for those two authors. Circuses don’t figure in my new novel, at least not yet, but who knows, maybe they will. Perhaps one of the elderly clients of Compassionate Care will be passionate about the circus, the way my father was; one of the greatest thrills of his life was riding atop an elephant down Wisconsin Avenue when Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey came to Milwaukee in the 1960’s. Not a bad obsession to help illuminate one of my characters, and the idea came to me just now.

I’m one of those writers whose ideas flow most freely and unexpectedly when I’m typing at my computer. I know I’m on the right track when my characters start saying and doing the unexpected, and when they pop unexpectedly into my head at all times of the day and night. But I don’t talk about them or about my evolving story line with other writers – I find that dissipates the energy. The sole exception is my husband, who comes up with brilliant plot ideas on the fly whenever we talk about my book.

So I’m drawing inspiration from two extremes on the continuum of the writing life. At one end are the ingénues, who write for the sheer pleasure of the process, and at the other extreme are those who’ve made it onto the best seller lists. For now, I’m happy to be somewhere in the middle.

I’m signing off for now, eager to get back to Paula and Claire at the Compassionate Care home care agency in the fictional town of Cooperskill in upstate New York. But I’ll post here again soon. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from you!

5 thoughts on “Keeping Up with National Novel Writing Month

  1. Loved this post, Julie! I’ve heard numerous writers say the characters reveal themselves to the writer as the novel unfolds. They don’t have the whole thing outlined from the outset. Others have said they outline the whole story and then fill in the dialogue and details. Obviously you are among the former. What fun! Keep on writing! I, of course, as you can guess am eager to read your creation when the time is right even though it may not be published. I enjoy your you know. Write on!

  2. Julie, Sorry for the punctuatioin errors in my comment. I see there are a couple. To M.E. Kemp, your book sounds intriguing! I made a note to look for it..

  3. Hi Betsy and Marilyn,
    Thanks for your comments. Yes, Marilyn’s books are excellent and entertaining. You can probably find some of them on Amazon. She has a series going with a feisty individualistic heroine.

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