Some of you may know that November is known to a lot of writers as NaNoWriMo. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, NaNoWriMo is the shorthand for National Novel Writing Month. The idea is writers take the month of November and try to get a rough first draft of a 50,000 word novel. The idea isn't to write your best, but to write a lot. I first tried NaNoWriMo seven years ago and I failed miserably. I had moved back to OKC just a few months before, I was still really figuring out what kind of writer I wanted to be (I was in denial that I should be writing inspirational romance), and I had no idea what I was really doing. I quickly discovered that 50,000 words is A LOT and I was in a place that I wasn't ready for that kind of task. It wasn't a completely wasted experience though, it helped me discover a few things about myself in regards to my writing. The main one being that I don't necessarily do well writing really fast, especially without a plan. This year, I decided to give NaNoWriMo another shot, but with my own twist. My goal wasn't to write an entire novel, but more to simply focus on one particular story everyday for a month. I was (mostly) successful and once again, I learned a lot about myself as a writer, and also some tricks to help me in the balancing of a fairly full life (full-time job, part-time job, church commitments, ect) and my writing career. Here are my reflections after NaNoWriMo.
Most authors fall into one of three categories: Plotter, Pantser, and In-Betweener. Stated simply, plotters plan everything out. They have an outline, a timeline, character profiles, and probably write their stories beginning to end. While it's still creative, their creativity has a plan that needs executed. Pantsers are the opposite. They "fly by the seat of their pants", writing as it comes, with usually no kind of outline, and maybe not in order. While they may jot down a timeline or a character profile, typically plotting makes them feel like they are hindering the creative process. The third type of writer, the in-betweener, is where I fall. Like it sounds, we fall somewhere in between plotting and pantsing, but usually with a lean toward one or the other. We may have a brief outline, but we don't follow it exactly. Or a character profile but the character may deviate from it. We may sit down one day and have no idea what we're writing and just write while another day we have everything worked out. I definitely lean toward pantsing. I have a basic outline, recently I've been exploring Myers-Briggs personality types for my characters, but I rarely write a story in chronological order, and a lot of times the story just takes over. After I finished edits on Worthy of Redemption and started on the next novel in that series, More than Enough, I was pretty much in full on pantser mode. Setting aside a time everyday to write gave me a chance to get back into more of a balance.
The area where I benefited the most, and where I succeeded the most, was in time management and writing consistently. The first day of November, I decided to write during my lunch break. We have a small break room with a computer and thanks to Office 365 and the Cloud, I can access my stories from anywhere with an internet connection. I didn't really set any goals, but I had about ten minutes left and I was at 460 words. I thought "I can totally get to 500, that's a good goal." I kept writing for the next ten minutes and ended up with 546! I decided this was a great time to write, and a good goal for the next month. I ended up writing on most of my lunch breaks (a couple of them I had to run errands) and hit my goal every day, exceeding it by a lot on several occasions. The highlight was on November 15 when I doubled my goal and hit 1,076 words during my lunch break! It was such a great feeling. I wrote other times during the month other than my lunch breaks, but these times were quickly my favorite. I posted some updates on my social media sites, and I had people asking me about my word counts. It was a ton of fun and felt like such a community effort.
I'm honestly not sure what my final NaNoWriMo word count was, but I realized as I was trying to figure it out that I don't really even care. It was never about the total amount of words, just about the drive to do this every day. I succeeded in writing every day and I exceeded my daily goals. More importantly, I feel like I made some discoveries in how to balance my time on this writing journey. I was talking with someone about it and I said it reminded me a little of a super strict diet like the Whole 30. You don't continue to eat nothing else after it's over, but you don't go back to eating a candy bar and drinking a ton of soda every day either. You've built a foundation. That's how this felt. I won't spend every lunch break from here on out writing at least 500 words, but I will probably do it at least two or three times a week. I built a foundation and I know I can do it.
So that's my experience. I may not have "won" NaNoWriMo in the sense that I got my novel done, but for me, it was one of the best things I've done creatively in a long time. Thank you to those that followed along on my journey and encouraged me along the way. (Especially my coworkers- you guys were awesome at keeping me accountable and being excited when I crushed my goals).
*If you want to keep following me along on this journey, I update most often on Instagram. The link is in the connect section of my website.
This post is going to be a little different. Recently I joined a creative community called Resonate: Plus. It's a group of Christian creatives from all over the world, with all different forms of creativity encouraging each other and talking about a specific topic related to creativity as believers. This month the topic is perseverance, and we are doing a fun group project! Anyone who wanted to participate, sent in a haiku on the topic, then we each picked one the spoke to us, and did something within our creative outlet that goes with that haiku. Some people are writing songs, or doing hand lettering, or painting. I decided to do a short story. What it ended up being, was an extra or deleted scene from my current novel, Worthy of Redemption. It stands alone, but uses characters and themes from that story. It was challenging to write, but a lot of fun! I'll put the original haiku first, and then the story. I hope you enjoy it!
But I keep moving onwards
his hand holding mine
Courtney took a deep breath as she walked to the visitation room of the halfway house that had become her residence for the last two months. Maybe today they would show. She walked into the large room and scanned it briefly. No sign of anyone she knew. She saw her roommate Karen with her parents and three-year-old daughter and gave a wave, trying to be happy for her. As she looked around, she noticed that most of the women in the facility were there, utilizing the one time during the week when they can spend time with their family members. Some of them would even leave to get lunch, shop, or just enjoy the one time they were allowed to be someplace other than the house or work. She sighed, her family had made it very clear when she was arrested for driving under the influence, resulting in the death of Victoria, one of her best friends, and an intoxication manslaughter charge, that they were done with her. The death of the head cheerleader on graduation night had rocked the entire small community of White Lake, Texas and her family’s reputation had taken quite the hit. Her father paid for her to have a good lawyer who managed to get her a decent plea bargain, but she had not seen her parents or her brother since her sentencing over two years ago. Looking around at the happy faces was beginning to make her depressed. Maybe she should just go back to her room and read or something.
“Courtney!” She suddenly heard a familiar voice shout from across the room.
She gave a small smile as she walked over to the smiling woman. “Lori! What are you doing here?”
“I hadn’t seen you since we helped you move in and I thought maybe you could use an escape? I thought maybe we could go get pedicures?”
Courtney’s smile deepened. “That would be wonderful. Let me go grab my purse and change while you get me checked out." The house had a policy that an approved guest must check out a resident and take responsibility for making sure they followed the house rules of no drugs or alcohol, and then returned promptly.
“Sounds great, I’ll meet you up front.”
“So how’s the transition going?” Lori asked her as their feet sat soaking in the warm water.
“It’s going okay.”
Lori gave her a look. “Courtney, it’s me. You don’t have to put on a brave face, or tell me it’s fine if it isn’t. So how is it going really?”
Courtney gave a small smile. It was amazing how well Lori had gotten to know her in the last two years. When she had sent a letter to Victoria’s boyfriend, apologizing for everything that had happened, she never would have guessed his mother would have decided to show up at the prison. But that’s exactly what Lori did. Since then, they had formed a bond that Courtney had never experienced with even her own mother. “Honestly? One minute, I feel great. I’m accomplishing my goals, I’m realizing my triggers, and I feel ready to take on the real world after my time here is over. The next minute, I’m terrified. Sure, prison was awful but at least I was safe. I didn’t have the temptations of wanting to go out and party and drink; I’m scared I’ll fall right back into that lifestyle that took the life of my friend and changed mine forever.”
“The fact that you recognize those fears and desires is a huge step. Keep praying that you’ll resist temptation; you don’t have to do this alone.” Lori said, pointing to the color she wanted on her toes.
“I know. One thing I have now, that I didn’t have in high school, is my relationship with God. I didn’t have a reason to be a better person, I didn’t have anyone holding me accountable, or encouraging me to do better. Now, I still can’t believe sometimes that he’s forgiven me for everything I’ve ever done, even getting in that car after drinking and killing one of my best friends. Because of that, I don’t want to fall back into that life. I want to live the way he wants me to. But it’s still hard. It’s like I’m stumbling, faltering. But I keep moving onwards, his hand holding mine.”
“Exactly. The most important thing to remember is that Jesus is with you every step of the way. And remember, while his hand is holding yours; mine is holding your other one. I’m with you through it all. If you’re feeling a great temptation, or extremely guilty about what happened, or just need to talk, I’m just a phone call away. Day or night. I mean that.”
Unable to give her a hug, Courtney reached over and squeezed Lori’s arm. She was glad that while she was persevering through this journey, she was not alone. Not only had God shown himself to her, he also placed Lori in her life to help her through her darkest time. The next few months may be scary, and full of pain, but with his hand holding hers, and the knowledge that Lori’s would be too, she would make it through.
Christ-Follower. Writer. Caffeine-addict.