A Brief History of NaNo
I’ve seen a few posts about people’s NaNo histories, and it’s inspired me to write my own. Besides, I really have nothing to do for the next few hours. I have a meeting with my adviser at 4:15 (she forgot about our last appointment on Monday). After that, the plan is to come home and nap for a few hours so that I’m well rested for when NaNo starts at midnight. Somewhere in the next three hours I should also make chili so that I have something to eat tomorrow while I’m supposed to be writing. I can’t afford to waste any time cooking tomorrow. But more on that later.
I signed up for NaNoWriMo October 31, 2007. I had heard about NaNo several months before. I read a lot of Harry Potter fan fiction at the time, and many of my favorite authors were warning their readers that they weren’t going to be updating for a while because they were going to be busy with this strange thing called National Novel Writing Month. I looked it up to see what they were talking about, and I thought it sounded stupid. You didn’t get anything for it if you won, and it seemed like a huge waste of time. I rolled my eyes and moved on to other things. (For the record, I thought Harry Potter sounded stupid when I first heard about it, too. Then I read the first book and became obsessed for the next ten years. So you can probably see where this is going.)
Flash forward a few months to Halloween 2007. It was my first Halloween in college. I was coming back from the dining hall when I saw a huge poster on the wall near the elevators advertising NaNoWriMo. I had seen it before but never really given it much thought, as I remembered thinking it was stupid the last time I looked at it. I’m not sure what made this time different. Perhaps I was feeling board and lonely. After all, it was Halloween, and I was preparing to spend the rest of my night alone in my room. Perhaps I just needed something to do.
Whatever the reason, I decided to check out the NaNo site again. This time, it sounded like something that would be a lot of fun. I registered that night and then came up with something to write. I had been reading a lot of personal essay collections at the time, and it seemed like fun. (Apparently I hadn’t read the rules closely enough to know that it was supposed to be fiction, but that’s okay.) That’s the only reason I was able to finish my first year, I think – whenever I got bored with one topic, I could move on to another. I ended up finishing my 50k a few days early, and it was a lot of fun. I absolutely hated the novel I wrote, but that’s okay. I learned a lot. For instance, I learned that I should never try to write a humor book again. Exclamation marks should be used very sparsely. Parenthetical asides are not as entertaining when I write them (although I obviously haven’t gotten over using them completely).
The next year, my roommate and our friend who lived next door all tried to do NaNo. I was going to try to pants that novel. I wanted to start with several characters but not plot. I somehow ended up with an overarching plot before I started writing. I had three characters in college who were going to learn things about themselves and each other. I got 10,000 words in and then stopped. This is the same novel that I started writing during the August Camp NaNo. I’m also going to try to finish it this year, but we’ll see how that goes.
In 2009, I got about 5,000 words in before I stopped. I was writing a fictional account of me and my boyfriend. A horrible idea in hindsight, but that’s what I was going to write. It was going to be a gift for my boyfriend. And then I realized that he wasn’t going to read it, and I lost interest. Lesson learned that year: you have to write the novel for yourself, first and foremost. If you don’t want to read it, you probably shouldn’t be writing it.
By NaNo 2010, I had graduated college and moved back home to Georgia. That’s when I joined the NanoLanta region and started attending write-ins and hanging out in the chat room. I found a novel idea that I really liked (Learning to Lie), and I wrote 68k that year. I still don’t have that novel where I want it, even after two drafts (it’s part of a trilogy, and it’s hard to write the first if you have absolutely no idea what will happen in books 2 and 3, or at least it is for me).
Last year was my first year joining the Overachievers thread. My goal was to finish an entire novel in a month. At first I was aiming for 75k. Then I upped it to 100k. Then 150k. I ended up writing 222,545 words. I finished Tilt Your Head and Smile (103k), finished writing my second draft of Learning to Lie (about 51k), started The Story of Em (54k), and started a fan fiction story (14k) because I needed something to write when I was stuck on the other ones. It was amazing.
This year, I have already upped my goal to 300k, and that is because I’m joining a small group of insane wrimos who are going for 50k on day one. You can follow us on Twitter if you search #50kDayOne or #50kkillmenow. This is my first year attempting this, and I’m not sure if I can do it, but I have the entire day off, so we’ll see. That’s why I want to have food already made for tomorrow and why I’m going to take a nap when I get home this evening – I won’t have much time for sleep tomorrow. I know I can do 50k in three days, as I did it for #50kweekend last year. One day might be pushing it, but we’ll see. If nothing else, I’ll start the month off with a big lead, and that would be exciting, too.
Now, the novels that I plan to write this month – in case anyone’s curious.
1. Zombies (working title)
Bath salts + flesh eating virus = zombies
Follows a group of six 20-somethings and two children as they struggle to survive a zombie outbreak. Not my usual genre at all, but it seemed like fun when I thought of it. There was a dare on our regional forum/chat (no longer recall which) to take “a man goes to the store” and make it into a tragedy. That’s basically what I’m doing. I also partly want to show that you can turn anything into Lit Fic – even zombies. 🙂
This will be the project I start with tomorrow, as it’s only half serious, and I won’t feel horrible if it ends up being horrible tomorrow. I mean, I want it to be good, and I have higher hopes for it than I should given the nature of it, but I don’t care about it as much as I do the others.
2. For Real This Time
After a traumatizing event at the end of eighth grade, Maggie Fitts , less affectionately referred to by her classmates as “Maggie Doesn’t Fitts,” is determined to lose weight – for real this time. When she meets Parker Williams, she’s even more determined to lose the weight. If she can pull this off, just maybe she can start high school with a new body and a new boyfriend.
But then Maggie’s parents give her news that threatens to destroy not only her diet but also her way of life. Will she find the strength to deal with her problems and stick with her diet, or will she succumb to the sadness that threatens to overwhelm her? And is losing weight even that important anymore?
3. Alone (working title)
In 2018, Congress passed what have come to be known as the Family Values amendments. The Personhood Amendment declares that life begins at conception and ends at natural death. The Marriage Amendment declares that marriage is between a man and a woman. It further states that only married couples can adopt children. As a result, half of all children are raised in overcrowded orphanages, anxiously awaiting the day they turn 18 and are released on their own without anyway to go.
Lucy Higgins has one year before she turns 18 and becomes yet another homeless orphan. Her only hope of salvation is the Exxmart Motors Lottery. Eligible students get to enter the Lottery, and four lucky winners – one from each of the four schools in the Atlanta region – get to go Etherton Academy, the prestigious private school uptown. Students at Etherton get a full scholarship to college, and Lucy knows that if she can just get in, she will have a chance at a real life.
But life’s not that simple. Just when things are finally starting to turn around for her, she gets news that threatens to undo everything she’s worked for the past seventeen years. Can she find a way out of the situation, or will she end up like every other teenage girl she’s ever know – cold and alone?
I’m not sure how successful I’ll actually be this month, but I’m hoping to get first drafts written for each of these novels. My plan is to finish these drafts and then spend a good portion of next year editing them. I think that was part of my problem this year – I was so focused on getting first drafts finished that I never finished editing anything. That’s going to change next year.
Less than eleven hours until NaNo starts!