Things Learned from a Month of Perceived Insanity

So here it is twenty-three days in to National Novel Writing Month and The End is in sight. Literally.

IMG_3896

The idea of writing a novel in a month is a little crazy town but so worth it. Not only will I have accomplished a goal and have the skeletons of a novel by the end of November but I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process. Which for me, is a win all the way around.

So what have I won? Well hopefully I will win Nanowrimo with a 50K word count by the end of the month. Here are some other things I’ve won( or learned over the course of this month):

  1. I am much more capable of “doing” than I give myself credit for. I quit things so  easily. Maybe quit isn’t the right word?  I get done the required amount and quit after that. Maybe you find yourself doing this too? We do just what is asked for, no more. Rarely do we push ourselves beyond our own feelings, or fears to something  bigger, more.
  2. Having a deadline looming is a good thing. Having a deadline looming with a cast of characters watching and cheering you on, motivates you even more. I did not want to come back with anything less than 50 000 words.  They preach it at Nanowrimo.  Telling people makes you accountable!
  3. I waste a ton of time. I don’t need to say anything else. Ugh.
  4. Reading is actually research. Hooray! I’m closing in on 130 books read this year and honestly felt a little guilty. But here’s the thing; I would not have been able to write so quickly if I hadn’t read so much. Reading lots of different genres makes you a better writer. It’s advice seasoned writers always hand out to up-and-comers.
  5. The excuses of why I wasn’t writing do not hold up any longer. I told myself I couldn’t write at night because I was too tired. I told myself I could not get up early to write because I’m tired. I told myself I didn’t have stories to tell that came from my imagination. (Even though I have been telling myself stories since I was a little kid when I couldn’t sleep at night. What did I do during those long dark hours? I made up stories in my head with characters from tv shows. Early fan fiction when it wasn’t even a thing. I think a lot of writers have this experience.) But this month, I wrote at night. I wrote in the morning and I wrote in the afternoon. Did I have time frames that I was more productive? Yes. I am a morning person. The words flowed easier in the am. BUT I still got my word count at other times. Huh. I’ve almost written 50 thousand words. I had a story to tell. Maybe more.

Some Practical Do’s & Don’t’s of NaNoWriMo that I learned:

a. Stay in your chair or on the couch or bed until you have your day’s word count. Wrimos (People doing Nanowrimo) tell you this and it’s true. Do not get up to do dishes (Well, really, why would you do that?) or any other chore that suddenly occurs to you. Stay still until you reach your goal. It’s amazing what your brain will do if you give it a chance and still your body.
b. Don’t get caught up in a good book during this month of novelling. Why? Because if you’re like me, you will get caught up in someone else’s characters and not care as much as you should about your own while you are reading said book. I read mostly what I call fluff stuff and books that had no intense plot lines or were totally different than the book I’m writing. Because you know, I couldn’t stop my research! 🙂
c. Do have a separate folder entitled NOVEL NOTES opened when writing. The wise people at Nanowrimo suggest this and it is pure genius. You will be adding things or coming up with new ideas as you write and you want to be able to put them somewhere easily accessible. For example when the protagonist’s parent’s job changes from a mechanic to an engineer by the end of the book and as an author you don’t catch this nor do any other early readers.  So after publication, your reader is left going, “Wasn’t he a mechanic in the beginning?”  And then has to search through the book to find it.  Hence Novel Notes. It saves everyone from going crazy or thinking they are!
d. If you have a family to feed while trying to writing an outlandish amount of words in a month, do invest in a lot of easy prep food. It will save your butt more times than not. You will be a superhero because chicken wings and fries are awesome! Instead of being the person who at five o’clock in the afternoon, is searching feverishly through the freezer, looking for somehting, anything to eat that will be ready NOW. FYI no one fainted from hunger here during the month of November. Next year they learn to cook for themselves!
e. Do have some writing buddies who are writing along with you. It is inspiring and fun. It takes the solitude away and they can talk you off a ledge better and faster than anyone else.
f. Finally Do have a pet rabbit or any other kind of pet who will keep you company as you type feverishly. Who will listen to plot ideas or character assassinations. Who will let you pet them to relieve stress. Or provide you with a good laugh as they give you fodder for material for your book.

So will my first nanowrimo be my last? Definitely not. This month has been everything I hoped it would be and worth the insanity.  It was also a lot of fun.  In some ways I am sorry to be done.  But I’m not really done, there’s revisions in the months of January and February.  You know, adding flesh to that skeleton I’ve created this past month…

 

Why It’s Important to Tell Your Story

What did you want to be when you grew up?

From at least the age of ten on, I wanted to be a journalist. I’m not entirely sure where that desire came from. I know I read about Nellie Bly early on and found her story fascinating. I loved the idea of travel and seeing my name in print. I was a voracious reader. I would get lost in a book for hours at a time.

IMG_1695

I loved stories and from early on I was intrigued with them and their storytellers. To this day, I wonder how people come up with stories like The Hunger Games, Little Women and Narnia? Where do these stories come from? What kind of a mind comes up with these ideas?

Deep down, I wanted to be a journalist to tell stories. Other peoples stories. For me, I thought journalism was the route to do that. Things don’t always turn out like we thought. But the desire to tell stories never left.

As an adult, not only do I still want to tell stories but I see the impact a good story can make on an individual. Think about it. If you go to a workshop or seminar or connect with a good friend. What do you remember most about that time spent? Usually it’s a story someone told. And if there’s a lesson attached even better because you probably remember it as well.

Families and friendships are often bonded over stories. There was a popular TV show a while back that was about some friends. The one would try and get his friend to do all this wild stuff and he would convince his friend to do it by telling him it would be “Legendary.” It’s those legendary stories that we tell over and over. That become a part of our history. Listening to those stories, makes the younger generation want to have their own stories as well. It’s motivating. Hopefully in a positive direction.

There is great power in storytelling. A powerful message told through story can make people change. The world change. We see it happen every day. Someone sees a news story and things change. It’s been going on since the beginning of time. How does God communicate with us? Mainly it’s through His Word, which is made up of people’s stories. Jesus told parables. I know you know this. I had forgotten it.

Storytelling can be scary and exhilarating. It’s hard. Sometimes you just have to get the story out. It will literally pour out of you. Other times we are afraid of how the story will be received. Will it be stomped on or embraced? Maybe no one will care. Maybe no one will but the story must still be told because someday with someone, it will make an impact.

IMG_0918

We all have a story to tell. I believe we all have many stories to tell. Can you tell your story if someone asked? We tend to think that means talking to a lot of people. For some of us, that might be true. But for most of us, telling our story means talking to our kids, our friends and those in our spheres of influence. It’s being able to answer why we do what we do or why we believe what we believe. What makes us tick. It’s important to be able to tell your story no matter who you are. Telling our stories is the foundation of community building.

We build relationship through story. In letting people into our stories and listening to theirs, communities are created. Knowing someone’s story is getting to KNOW them. It can be deeply personal or maybe you like their humour, their cleverness. It makes you want to know more.

Telling your story is opening your heart. If it’s done authentically, it invites others to see the good, the bad and the ugly so they can be free to do the same. It makes us equals and can transform us all.