Or, the Month Writers Torment Themselves More Than Usual
Who Wrote a Novel This Month?
Anybody? Anybody? Well, according to various statistics, on various websites, between 350,000 and 450,000 people girded their loins and sat down to pound out a NaNoWriMo novel between November 1 and today. But if you were one of us, don’t feel discouraged by that number. It doesn’t mean you have half a million competitors to your baby. It means our society spent a month dreaming together. And doesn’t that sound sweet?
Not All NaNoWriMo Writing is First Draft (Exactly)
A while back I bought an ivy plant for my bedroom. It was beautiful and lush and within three months it was a pot of dried twigs.
Except for one little stem that had five green leaves on it. I dumped the dead ones, dug out the living one and put it into a glass of water. A month later it began to grow some roots, and I repotted it into a smaller container. It continued to grow and I cut a piece of it and put THAT into a glass of water. A month later it too began to root and I planted it next to the first stem.
As the two branches continue to grow, I will cut more from them, root them and plant them into the same pot.
I find that writing is a lot like that.
Cuttings, Grafts, and Seedlings
A year ago I wrote a third of a novel and deeply detailed synopsis. But, what seemed lush and beautiful at first, crumbled to dried, sad twigs on my laptop. After a few months of mourning, I turned to the several themes and written pages that had life in them and repotted them into a new story. I wrote the first draft in six weeks, most of it very new, but also entire chunks migrated from a previous novel I wrote and shelved years ago. Except now, I knew how to write it and what to do with it.
This NaNoWriMo, my goal was to finish a second draft in one month. I’m close. I didn’t quite get to the finish line, but I can see the seedlings and grafts taking root. I began weaving the vines of the story back and forth so that all events grow from one sad but determined root.
I did not embark on this journey alone. A fellow writer and I decided to send each other accountability texts every single evening, cheering each other on through days when there were 3000 new words, 150 new words, or, as in my case when I edited, -450 words. I began to dream about my characters. Not like I picture them when I write, when it’s more watching them and recording their actions, but sitting in a room with them, walking and talking with them. They began to threaten me, to touch me. After all, I write crime and my characters are criminals.
Pruning and Watering
Now that my new, fresh stems have taken root and grown, I will be watering and pruning, and also planting new bits and bobs around the edges.
How about you? Tell me about your NaNoWriMo experience. Or have you taken dead stories and revived them into new and flourishing ones? I’d like to know!
Her short stories appear in the Bouchercon 2023 Anthology, A Stranger Comes to Town: edited by Michael Koryta, Secrets in the Water, After Midnight: Tales from the Graveyard Shift, River River Journal, Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories 2017, and 1+30: THE BEST OF MYSTORY.
When not writing, Emilya works as a visual artist and reads massive quantities of psychological thrillers, suspense, and crime fiction. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her family.