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Thursday, December 2, 2010

No Mo NaNoWriMo

Well the December 1st deadline for NaNoWriMo has come and gone, and I have to admit with no shame that I didn't complete a novel of 50,000 words in 30 days. You will note on my NaNoWriMo link to the right, I only completed 20% of the required number of words. This is not an essay about making excuses for not completing, in fact it is with a certain satisfaction that I report here that I failed. Because while I didn't meet the original goal, it was while I was engaged in the flurry of page after page over the first week and a half, that the epiphany of changing my memoir to a fact-based memoir/novel came to me.

NaNoWriMo is intended for writers writing novels, hence the name, but I was using it to help me crank out stories for my memoir. I figured that if there are people out there cranking out a "novel" by typing merely two letters repeatedly until they met the word count goal within the required one-month time frame, I could use it for my non-fiction purposes. Yes, there are apparently people who do that - many people in fact. The rules state that you must type at least two letters of the alphabet in your novel, I guess in order to keep someone from typing merely one letter repeatedly. Not sure what the difference is, but then NaNoWriMo isn't taken seriously by many participants, which to my mind is a good thing. When I began there were more than 172,000 people signed up. I knew I had competition out there, but 172,000???

Anyway, back to my epiphany. Each day I wrote, I found myself thinking I'm cranking out a lot of words, and it feels good from that aspect, but I need to do some good research in order to be true to the stories and their characters. I need to meet the goal!" It was at this point, I realized that the book needed to be a novel, and that I needed to stop and do the research as I go along. Some of you might say "Hey, whip the novel out and do the research later!". But I've encountered something I hadn't fully considered in dealing with these old stories - many of them are from my early career more than 30 years ago. Some are from my childhood - more than fifty years ago. If I don't do the research now, people who can help me with verifying my observations and filling the blanks are leaving this planet. This has already happened to me on a couple of occasions. I can't afford to wait on the research.

But my dear reader, don't despair. I am still writing daily and the direction my book is headed is right where it needs to be. I'm diving in and working hard. Some of the stories come gloriously easy - I sometimes can't write fast enough as they come in a flood. For other stories, I'm a little hazy on the details - hence the need for confirming contacts and other research. And then there is the recall of some of the traumatic memories, which is intense and I find that it sometimes takes me a day or two or three to recover from it emotionally.

The work is good and I'm doing what I was meant to do. As the writer Max Ehrmann said: the universe is unfolding as it should.


  1. So glad to read your comments about NaNo and your chosen direction on your .. what? Of course it isn't a novel! Will it still be a memoir? You are so wise to get the needed facts now. I had been urged by our children to write of my husband's and my early years and I started with bits and pieces in the form of notes and then started linking them together Before I had finished my husband's memory had faded and other family members were no longer with us.
    I started NaNo and reached over 22,000 words then stopped. Guests and Thanksgiving was more important. I started on the 10th and developed an idea from Cynthia's 15min. free writing class. It was a challenge that I do not regret.
    Keep up the momentum...go, go!

  2. Dannie:
    You got pretty far with the holidays intervening and all. 22,000 words is nothing to sneeze about. Actually, it is a novel based on real-life experiences. Although we'll see if someplace along the way, it might resurrect itself as a memoir. Two chapters roughed out so far, We'll see.