Yesterday, I competed in a day long writing event in honor of #NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, where the goal is to write 50,000 words. Sponsored by the Capital City Writers Association, it was a 12 hour day, and I was with 95 other people, camped out in Spartan Stadium’s press box on the beautiful campus of Michigan State University.
Do I have a novel in me? Who knows; it’s more of a personal challenge, a stretch goal for sure. I certainly have the story, but translating it to paper in a way the reader finds interesting and in my case, humorous, is a completely different matter. But I learned a lot by entering the fray where the day was broken into five segments with meals and breaks thrown in for relief, and word count was measured at every stoppage. Remember, the goal was to write as many words as possible in 90 minute blocks. So what did I learn?
- Keeping your system hydrated with water and caffeinated beverages AND sitting just about as far away from the rest rooms as possible is not a good strategy in a timed competition.
- A scarf rakishly thrown about the neck does not make a writer. Next year, I’m wrapping it around my head.
- I have only typed with two fingers, my entire life. What was I doing when all of my high school classmates were taking typing? Now if I multiplied my progress by five to include all the other digits, I’d be pretty doggone proficient.
- There is software you can purchase to help outline your story before you write it. My software – a pencil and eraser.
- I overheard one woman say she was writing Amish Romance – I didn’t see that one coming. I had to look this up when I got home; it is largely written and read by Evangelical Christian women, and the books are referred to as Bonnet Rippers. I do not make this up.
- I spoke to one guy who is writing fantasy. “Real fantasy” he was quick to add. I’m still processing that. Isn’t that an oxymoron?
- Never once during the day did I think about all the other things I could be doing – now that’s revealing for me! A day well spent.
- I ran out of words about 4:00. About 4:01, I discovered my pants were too tight, my shoes were too small and I wondered why the hell I’d worn a belt.
- When asked what genre we were writing, the answers amazed me: Self Help Guides, Romance, Historical Magical Realism, Young Adult Fantasy, Gritty Funny Love Stories, Women’s Fiction, Fan Fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Memoirs, Urban Fantasy, Speculative Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Middle Grade Time Travel, Dystopian, Low Fantasy Cosmic Horror, Paranormal Mystery, Regency Romance. And let’s not forget Amish Romance. Apparently, Westerns are passe. Did I mention writers are a quirky group?
- Today, I am exhausted. Who knew strenuous mental demands could be so exhausting? Or else, I’m more out of shape than I thought.
As for me, I wrote 6294 words. The winner wrote 22,534 words in the same amount of time. If I used all ten fingers, the wiring between my brain and my hands is too corroded to be able to produce that. (I’m also thinking she didn’t have the chili cheese nachos with extra guac for lunch.)
They say a good writer is a good reader. My new challenge is to read three more books until I attack the story again. I love my characters and perhaps, someday you will have a chance to meet them, but I’ve got some more schoolin’ to do first. And by the way, my genre? Humorous romance, and my protagonist is a wise cracking, sarcastic, off beat single woman. It IS NOT autobiographical.