My sister Aimee has featured in some of my stories and posts and she even guest blogged on here before. She and I wrote together as kids and we both have careers related to writing (as I wrote in my own guest blog, “NaNoWriMo Saved My Life“). I’m only just now beginning to understand how formative that early writing and storytelling together has been in who I am as a person and a writer. So, it’s been amazing doing NaNoWriMo with her the last two years. Here is her recap.
I did it! I did it! *singsong voice* Okay, celebration over. For now.
This year’s NaNo experience was much greater than last year’s and not just because I won — though that definitely helps. It was greater because I learned a lot more. About a lot of different things. About the person I am and the person I want to be. About the writer I am and the writer I want to be. About writing in general — and what works and doesn’t work for me. About my characters and my love for them. Yes, this year I truly fell in love with my characters and that, in the end, is what pushed me to the finish. Because, to be honest, the bulk of my writing was done at the very end of November. In the last three days. I always did like the number three.
Oh, I started out with the best of intentions. My best friend and sister (two for the price of one) agreed to be a general supporter and butt-kicker along with my long-distance writing buddy in the U.K. Writing exercises were completed in October to stretch my writing muscles. I had a plot (basically), a handful of characters, a detailed outline even. 1,667 words a day. Very doable. And when the calendar rolled to Nov. 1, I shot ahead despite my son getting sick with a stomach bug that same day. In fact, by day 3 I had a tally of 6,246 words. I was soaring!
Week Two, I lagged at the start. But I kept writing. My word count fell behind. Okay, just pick up the pace and all will be well. But the latter part of Week Two — oh, do I have to talk about it? — erased itself from my writing calendar. Life got tough. Really tough. My novel got set aside while my life was blasted by a hurricane.
On Nov. 15, I should have had 25,000 words. I didn’t even have 10,000 (a few more days found me there, to 10,000 that is). I survived to Week Three though. I took stock of what was left. And found my novel. I needed my novel. It needed me. And I needed that. So — Determination Mode. Something had to turn out good. My novel must survive — it must thrive. It was the good thing I was holding onto. A dream I could salvage.
By the end of Week Three, my word count was only up to 15,000. With the help of my butt-kicking encourager (who still hasn’t killed me for bugging her a thousand times while she tried to complete her own 50,000 words), my fantastic U.K. buddy (who could just be a professional motivator), and my husband (who says he didn’t mind always talking about my novel), I stayed determined. No quitters here. I could still pull it off, right?
As Week Four started, I got the stomach bug. And while I wallowed in pain and misery (and consequently wrote a lot of the same), my son got the stomach bug too. Supermom rally. Somewhere in there, my word count hit 20,000. Followed by Thanksgiving and another day of no writing. Four days left and my word count hadn’t even made it to the halfway point (aka 25,000). My resolve began to sink. What if I can’t do it? I asked myself. No answer. That was not an option. I didn’t have an answer for that scenario. It just wouldn’t happen, couldn’t happen, wasn’t meant to happen (kind of like some scenes in my novel). And that meant I was going to finish.
So I wrote and wrote and wrote at every possible opportunity. My notebook traveled with me everywhere I went. I may have ignored my family on occasion. I may have spent the Sunday morning church service writing instead of paying attention to the sermon while my son played in kid’s church.
Monday dawned. Nov. 30. The last day. I had already accomplished a fantastic feat. My word count had hit 40,000. But I had to write 10,000 more words in 8 hours after putting up huge word counts the last couple days already. I couldn’t stop to think or regroup. I had to charge ahead. With my door closed and locked, I began writing again. Slowly, painfully, and so very slowly. I was never going to make it if I couldn’t speed up and I felt like crying. I was so close! And there just wasn’t enough time.
What gave me that final push? What sent me running and screaming passed the 50,000 mark? This is what I realized: If I fail, this world dies. My world. People will die. People that deserve to live, to think, to feel, to be. So I wrote to save the world.
Who’s a superhero now? I sure feel like one.
P.S. Thank you to all my writing buddies for the awesome encouragement and challenges. Dec. 1 wouldn’t look the same without you! And to my family — thanks for not giving up on me. I’m back!
I was going to do my own NaNoWriMo recap, but I feel like Aimee spoke so beautifully to her experience and mine mirrored hers in a way, so I’d like to just add mine to hers. While I didn’t come from behind as drastically as Aimee did (she did 30,000 words in about 3 days, folks!), I also lost a lot of ground in the 3rd week and had to do the last 15,000 words in the last 5 days (that’s about half the words Aimee needed and about half the days – are you getting how astounding her achievement is yet?). I was lucky enough to make a new NaNoWriMo buddy while still in Baton Rouge who taught me the magic of the Word Wars. And I hadn’t used Write or Die as much as I could’ve till I was desperate at the end. But I had enlisted great friends to hold me accountable – Jamey, Brooke, Becky, Stephanie and Barb. And Aimee was my supporter and butt-kicker as much as I was hers.
I was lucky enough to finish early in the morning on the 29th (mostly cause of those Word Wars with J. in Baton Rouge and some with Aimee that morning). After that, my last job was cheerleader, in my mind. Aimee was 30,000 words behind, so I switched to soothing and cheerful: “No matter what, keep writing. You’ll still write more words than you would’ve otherwise!” I honestly didn’t think she’d be able to finish 50,000 words – mostly because she has a young son and a busy workload. I don’t know how I forgot how stubborn Aimee can be. And how determined. She said to me, “I’m going to finish.” This was 3 days from the end and when she said that, I immediately changed my tune. Humor the crazy, delirious person. But I also started to realize she could do it. Aimee can do anything when she’s determined to.
The fact that she crossed the finish line with a few hours to spare and 2,000 extra words is an enormously affirming lesson to me. Don’t ever underestimate Aimee again – or anyone who needs to finish something as badly as she needed to finish NaNoWriMo this year. NaNoWriMo has again saved my life and I am so proud of everyone who wrote any amount of words this year and learned something from this crazy process. I am especially proud of Aimee, my gloriously stubborn and incredibly talented sister.
Today, Aimee wrote me this email, which is probably the best postscript anyone could possibly put on this year’s NaNoWriMo experience: “Funny thing is, I still felt like writing today. Just call me crazy.”
Meet you on the bookshelf, Aimee. XO