With a satisfying click I close out a sentence that definitely wouldn’t be the last of my NaNoWriMo novel. On baited breath I check my word count for the hundredth time that day.
I have made it.
When I sat down to start my novel on November 1st as a part of National Novel Writing Month, I wasn’t sure where I would end up. This wouldn’t be my first time attempting NaNoWriMo, but for three or four attempts I’d never gone further than a week or two, always petering out for some reason or another. This time was different, but also so much the same.
I had planned a solid chunk at the beginning of my novel, and had a bare bones idea of what would happen in my character’s journey from beginning to end. Looking back it’s almost funny to see what I thought was a plan. The overarching details are not really what goes into a novel at all. Instead it’s about those little, unforgettable details. Choice lines and poetic prose that makes the reader sigh and look out the window, imagining the world that you’re painting.
Well, I hadn’t planned for any of that.
In fact, when I hit 25,000 words I also hit an enormous wall. I had no plan, and the idea that my story would just roll out of its unmade bed and develop in the depths of my imagination wasn’t working out quite like I had hoped. I persevered. I left my beginning with a few holes in it, reasoning that I didn’t need to write in order, just to get the word count done. I picked the scenes I was excited to write about, the ones that were bursting out from the little gas bubbles in my knuckles. This is what it was to harness creative energy, but despite my goal to write my 1,667 words per day, I started to slip behind.
Then, before I knew it, the date was November 28th and I had about 35,000 words written of my NaNoWriMo novel. Two days and 15,000 words to go? It seemed impossible. My workload was piling up, I had articles that needed to be written and assignments that were due. All those other things were sweeping over me like waves in an ocean, and there was me barely keeping my head above the water.
But, I had come so far.
So, instead of wondering whether I could do it, I told myself that I just would do it. I would finish NaNoWriMo. Day 28 had passed me by, and then day 29. I told myself that I was going to win this, even if I had to write all day, even if I had to lock myself up with my writing hat on and just get it done.
The day of November 30th dawned. I had spent the night swimming through the subplots of my NaNoWriMo novel, walking in the wilderness of wherever my story was heading. I had ideas of where to start, and slowly but surely the little details of this tale were falling into place. I sat down at my computer, and started to write.
Minutes ticked by, then hours. Cups of coffee piled up beside me, and at the back of my brain the turning of cogs started turning other cogs. Things were flowing, and they weren’t just caffeinated beverages. The sun rose and peaked before starting its arced descent. I didn’t see it. I wasn’t living in that world, but rather one of my own creation. People that I had thought up, that I had made with the clay of my own dreams were wondering about, having conversations and doing things that, to be honest, surprised even me. It was the kind of creative mind flush that people dream of having, driven by nothing short of desperation.
Darkness had started to fall by the time I put that last full-stop into place. My hands were sore, my wrists ached from resting against my computer. I had written more than 13,000 words, a personal best even for a freelance writer. But these were not just any words. They were words I had dredged from the very depths of my soul. They came from a story that I realised I had been carrying around for years, slowly building up and then forgetting, sketching out and then fading away. They were my words, not written for anyone else, just for me, and just like that the challenge was done.
With 50,000 words in front of me, and the last day of November sliding off into dusk, I sat back in my chair, cracked my knuckles, and looked down at my word count. I wanted to smile and to scream and to dance around. I wanted to take my hands of the keys and never write another word again, at least until I’d forgotten what the ache felt like. I wanted to do all of these things, but I also wanted to dive head first into my story, and into the world that I had created.
So, instead of getting up and walking away, I went back to the beginning. I opened the very first chapter of what I hope will one day be my first published novel, and I started to read.