If you are reading this post today because writing fiction and reading it are passions, then you likely know that the month of November was NaNoWriMo, a yearly event in which writers all over the globe participate in what is essentially the world’s largest writers’ support group. The idea is simple: Writers join geographic writing groups that encourage daily work, and in this atmosphere of support, each individual writer attempts to start and complete a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. Since I’ve been known to stare at blank pages in a writing notebook for 30 days and more, I decided over the past few years (NaNoWriMo has been a thing since 1999) that it isn’t my place to participate.
Well, this year I changed my mind.
Well, sort of.
Once we left the temporary apartment in Geneva and settled into life in Nyon, a life full of regular old routines like grocery shopping and dog walks, I had time to take stock of the handwritten first draft of the new novel I have been working on, and decided it was time to convert the damn thing into a Word doc manuscript. But: Type all the words? From eleven composition notebooks? For a two-fingered reluctant typist, this exercise would require some serious motivation. Enter NaNoWriMo and its nifty word count tracker.
There are a number of word count tracking apps and websites out there, but receiving group updates and encouraging emails as I watched my typed draft take shape over the course of November helped me through my least favorite part of the writing process. I stumbled a bit over Thanksgiving week but managed to hit “save” on the last few sentences on Monday, December 7. While I didn’t follow the letter of NaNoWriMo law (this is not a new novel, nor is it anywhere near complete), I got caught up in the spirit of meeting the 50,000 word goal. I now have a very rough first draft of 55,432 words to tear apart, write over, and rewrite time and again until I decide it is as finished as it will ever be. And that is a good place to be on the brink of the new year.
The goal of all this drafting and rewriting, of course, is to produce something people want to read. Three colleagues from the 2014 Yale Writers’ Conference did just that this year, submitting fine work to three different literary sites, and getting the nod for publication.
Arrangements by Charles Watts
winning story, 2015 Raymond Carver Contest, Carve Magazine
Charles Watts earned his MFA from Brown University in 1992, studying with writers that included Robert Coover, Meredith Steinbach, Michael Ondaatje, and Hortense Calisher. Charlie went on to work as a paralegal, a publications assistant, and a communications consultant. He and his wife, a chaplain, have three grown children.
Baby Mine by Mary Jo Melone
in Crack the Spine, Issue 173
Mary Jo Melone is currently a writer-in-residence at Rivendell Writers Colony in Sewanee, TN. Her fiction has appeared in The Iron Horse Literary Review and 2 Bridges Review. She received her MFA in 2011 from the University of South Florida in Tampa, where she now studies linguistics and tutors international students. Formerly, she was a journalist.
The Sureness of Horses by Kevin Arnold
a serialized novel featured in US Represented
Kevin Arnold is a poet, teacher, and fiction writer from Portola Valley, California. He has published in forty literary magazines and has a book of poems. He’s been featured four times on YourDailyPoem.com. Based on a story extracted from one of his novels, the San Francisco / Peninsula California Writer’s Club named him Writer of the Year, 2014-2015.
Following the Icelandic Christmas Eve tradition of Jólabókaflóð (literally translated as Yule Book Flood), I gift you this Christmas Eve with a flood of the best work I’ve read over the past several months. Curl up tonight with these pages. It will be a nice way to welcome tous les fêtes de fin d’année, I promise.
If any readers participated in NaNoWriMo this year, write a little bit about your process in the comments. I’d love to hear how you used the month and the group motivation to get the work done.
And also feel free to comment on the linked stories. Remember how important it is to let writers know you read and reflected on their work.
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