Do you think you could sit down and write a 50,000 word novel in a month? No? I didn’t think so either. I mean, fiction is NOT my strong point. To be fair, I had never given it an honest try. I love to read novels. I’ve shared a few books that I love on the blog, and continue to add to my stack of finished books every week. But writing my own? It just sounded daunting.
Last November I ran a marathon. This year, I was still fighting through postpartum healing and thought that a writing marathon might help keep my mind off of it all. A few podcasters and writers that I love had talked about it, and it peaked my interest. National Novel Writing Month. I talked to a few friends about it. I hoped that if I told enough people that I was thinking about it, that I’d feel the pressure and actually try.
Jordan’s grandma, Sharon, always tells me to keep writing and when I told her about it she said, “Hey, why not?” She had a good point.
I had just finished reading Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin. It is a book about habits, tendencies, and how the two work together to help shape your life. I learned a lot about myself and used some of those insights to help me set out a plan.
I knew I’d have to schedule daily time to write. I’m an upholder and a rule follower. I knew that a daily word count goal would feel like an unmovable force that I had to surrender to. I bought No Plot, No Problem, by Chris Baty and read it in preparation for my big day. It was an excellent resource! It was funny and encouraging; full of great tips and tricks to get the book written in the set time frame. Baty encouraged me to just go for it. Who cares if it turns out bad? “Don’t get it right, get it written.”
My friend Rachel and I were on the phone talking about our upcoming writing endeavors. I said, “I want to write a good book one day, but first, I feel like I need to write a really bad one.”
“Right,” she agreed, “it’s like when you make pancakes. The first one is always ugly. You just need to get it out of the way.”
October 31 before bed, I set out my laptop, glasses, a notebook, a black knit beanie, fingerless gloves and my resource book. I ground coffee beans and set the pot to brew first thing in the morning. I even picked out a mug and set it beside the coffee pot.
On November 1 at 5 a.m., I awoke to my alarm, nursed the baby, and went downstairs. I had nothing prepared. I wanted to truly write and create a whole story in one month. For me, that meant no plot planning or even character creating until November started. I allowed myself to have one writing prompt ready to start the day: A woman making pancakes.
That’s what this book felt like. The first pancake. May as well get it out of the way.
The rest of the month looked a lot like the first day. I’d set up where I was going to write and wake up super early to get my writing in first thing in the morning. I knew I’d just be crabby and anxious if I didn’t reach my word count and then couldn’t get to writing that day due to any of the innumerable potential interruptions that come with being a mother of three. So, I had a firm writing session scheduled every morning.
Somedays were a breeze. But most days, I had to force myself to write and make up the story as I went along. When I really couldn’t think about something to write, I just wrote about food to break through my writers block and move forward.
After 30 of those disciplined mornings, I had a book. An actual book! (note that nobody is saying I had a good book, that wasn’t the goal). I asked my friend, Katie, to give my book a quick read and quick edit. She agreed, unaware of how bad my book actually was. GUYS. PUNCTUATING DIALOG IS HARD. It’s just a mess, ok? Because I was mostly focused on a deadline and word count, I just had to plow through confusion and get the words on the page. My first draft was returned to me a week later COVERED with loving and diligent corrections marked in pink.
It felt so vulnerable to have her read my unedited book. I felt like a big-dumb-loser-dummy, but she was the perfect friend for the job. She was so encouraging and sweet. I owe her a million dollars for taking that job. Unfortunately, I doubt anyone will actually buy my book, so I don’t think I’ll profit enough to actually pay her. Lucky for me, she is accepting a coffee date as payment.
I wanted this to be a creative project. I didn’t want it to become something I tried to perfect. This book is fun because I gave it one month of my life. A real author would spend the next year editing and rewriting. They’d flesh out characters, hone in the plot, and fine tune sentence structure. Me? I followed Katie’s edits, designed a cover, and sent the imperfect piece to print. I can’t wait to have it on my shelf. A little paperback trophy to remind me of the early mornings I spent with my characters.
Participating in this challenge has given me a greater appreciation for fiction writers. Honestly, it is so intense and time consuming to go through the whole writing process. Since I wrote my book, I’ve been so much more appreciative of the work that goes into novel writing and thankful for all of the time that my favorite authors put in to paint me a picture. Writing has completely changed the way I read.
So here is the deal. Overtime I mentioned that I was doing this, someone wanted to know if they could read my work. So, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but, I’m sharing it. HERE IS THE LINK. Fine. You can read it. It is flawed in so many ways that you will see, but iff there is a chance that me putting my imperfection out there will make you think, “Hey, I could do this.” or, more likely, “Hey, I could do way better than this!” then it will be totally worth it for me.
If anything, I hope this exercise in both discipline and vulnerability will help encourage you to just try something new, even if it will be hard and even if it will be imperfect. Who cares? Why not?
Happy reading! And hopefully, Happy writing!
Ps. No, my book is NOT about you. Even if you swear it is. It’s not. Ok? ok.