In Praise of NaNoWriMo

In 2003, I was a writer without a Muse.  I was, understandably, miserable.

Words had always come so readily to me from the very start.  My first stories were told in a mandatory journal my first-grade teacher insisted we keep.  Most of my classmates would complete it in the quickest fashion possible:  a drawing, accompanied by a few rudimentary sentences.  “Today we learned about math.  Then I ate dinner.  We had pizza.”  It was all she expected of us.

Born verbose, mine would go something like so:  “Today, my mommy and daddy took me out for pizza.  My daddy made me laugh by pretending to be Cookie Monster.  ‘Nomm, nomm, nomm!’ he shouted as he bit the pizza.  ‘Are you a cookie?’  I ran away laughing so he couldn’t eat me.”

I really loved setting a scene, as opposed to sharing facts.  I treasured unique moments over itemizing all of the day’s events.

Flash forward past years of short stories, poetry, novellas and novel-length fanfiction:  I was stuck.  I hadn’t written anything substantial in two years, and that last project was a horrid bastardization of Francesca Lia Block’s style.  I was also in the midst of preparing for my GRE exams when prose-loving friends of mine nudged me.  “Are you doing NaNoWriMo?” they asked.  I had no idea what they were talking about, and once I did, I knew I had no time for it.  I was writing my exams on December 13th.  My spare time in November was committed to Psychology and trying to remember Calculus.

The Muse had other plans.  On November 3rd, a nudge as I listened to a song:  “What if a group of strangers were trapped in a room?  What if they weren’t strangers at all?”  My reply:  “Hmm.  Interesting.  Get back to me after I memorize the DSM-IV.”

On November 7th, I woke up with an entire movie playing in my head.  It’s how all of my projects begin:  in fast-forward, I see it all unfold.  My job is to slow it down and capture it in prose.  With a grumbled curse, I reconsidered my stance.  Maybe the Muse would never return.  If I sat the idea aside to work on later, would I lose it, just as I had with a previous novel at age seventeen?

(That work remains unfinished, to my dismay.  I hate unfinished stories.)

NaNoWriMo was there, waiting.  Daring me to reconnect with my passion.  GRE studying shoved aside, I surrendered to the challenge.

I wrote late into the night, first thing in the morning, on breaks at work.  If I had a computer, I was writing that novel.  Outlines were scribbled on scrap paper, if necessary.  It seemed an impossible mountain to climb, but on November 30th, 2013, with ten minutes to spare, I uploaded my unfinished novel for verification and cheered at my triumph.

It took me nearly a decade to complete the final chapters and release it, but Collide would not exist without NaNoWriMo.  Consequently, I may have remained creatively stagnant, never writing Change Of Season, either.

(Trivia:  Change Of Season began as a screenplay for Script Frenzy, an offshoot of NaNo.)

From a simple group of friends, NaNoWriMo has expanded to share the gift of creation with both children and adults, nurturing the voices of the present and future.  They are cheerleaders to the over-caffeinated, organizing pep talks, word sprints and municipal events to drive new and experienced participants towards that seemingly impossible, yet utterly attainable goal:  fifty thousand words in a month.

Doing all of this work has financial ramifications.  This is where my praise turns to a pitch.

NaNoWriMo is seeking donations to fuel its artistic fire and keep its myriad of programs and resources going.  Today, in particular, is Double Up Day, where the goal is to double everything:  donations, word counts, the number of times your main character changes clothes in a chapter… Everything.

There is no price tag for reigniting a writer’s Muse.  But we can all certainly try.  As a perk, you’re in the running for some serious swag.  Isn’t giving grand?

Click here to learn how you can support the magic of NaNoWriMo.  Too broke to donate?  Share the word.  Share your story of NaNo.

(As for me… NaNoWriMo 2014 has renewed my spark once more.  Details on that project soon!)

Original Story Contribution For Fundraiser: Support TWLOHA

Amanda Todd’s tragic suicide couldn’t have come at an eerier time.  In continued evidence that fandoms are filled with caring hearts, one of the latest fundraisers is Fandom For Suicide Awareness.

For a minimum donation of $5 to To Write Love On Her Arms, a wonderful organization I support, you will receive an extensive compilation of short stories and fanfiction from a group of talented writers.  I myself have contributed a dark mystery short story to the compilation, “The Cruellest Month”.  This story will not be available anywhere else to read for a good deal of time, and is inspired in part by the Neil Gaiman short story “October In The Chair”.  As an assignment for my students I tutored, I encouraged them to choose a month and tell a fitting story.  I chose April.

As someone who survived a suicide attempt and struggled with trauma, this is a cause that is truly important to me.  Even if you’re not interested in the entire compilation, $5 is the cost of a Starbucks latte.  If you can give more, I encourage you to do so.

To learn more about To Write Love On Her Arms, click here for their site.

To donate for the fundraiser, click here and then forward your emailed receipt to fandom4suicideawareness@gmail.com.  The deadline for donations is November 1st, 2012.

More on Collide and the Change Of Season book tour will be forthcoming as well.