I’ve always been a book lover. As a child, I frequently got in trouble for staying up past my bedtime with a flashlight and a book. In third grade, I spent many days in the time out room for reading in class instead of listening. My parents and teachers despaired. They needed to find a way to encourage me to participate in class, and goodness knows, I needed to sleep some time, but how can you punish a child for reading?
As an adult, I still love to read. I love being transported to new places, living new lives, meeting fantastical characters. My bookshelves are packed, two deep in some places with Anne McCaffrey, Kage Baker, J.R.R. Tolkien, Neal Stephenson, Terry Pratchett, J.K. Rowling, Martha Wells, Ann Leckie, and on and on and on. I love walking into a library and breathing in that musty smell of pressed wood pulp and book mold.
I’ve always loved stories, and I always toyed with the idea of writing my own. I took a few creative writing classes in college, but ultimately my writing degree focused on technical writing and business communication. After college, I put down the pen for many years. Sure, I still wrote. I wrote process documents for work, training manuals, emails. The usual dull, professional stuff. Excruciating.
Then, in 2014, with the encouragement of a friend, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The idea is to crank out a novel in 30 days. 50,000 words in 30 days. 1667 words each day.
There were a few things I didn’t realize going in:
- A real novel is way more than 50,000 words. (So, sue me. I never counted. I was always too busy getting caught up in the story.)
- At the end of NaNoWriMo, you won’t have a finished book. You’ll have a rough draft, which, as it turns out, is a pretty darn good thing to have.
- Writing is hard, but getting your butt sitting at the keyboard is sometimes the biggest battle.
- Having a good handle on grammar and sentence construction is only a tiny part of producing a good story.
- Learning the craft of writing takes hard work, time, and discipline.
- Writing is a painful and exhilarating combination of arrogance and crushing self-doubt. (I think I read this in Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, but I can’t, for the life of me, find the quote.)
I finished my 50,000, and I made it to the end of that “novel.” It was atrocious, but that’s okay. I started. I started writing. And once I began, I found I couldn’t stop.
Writing is an incredible journey. I think of all the beautiful places my favorite authors have taken me and all of the feelings they have made me feel, and I hope, some day, to be able to give that gift to a reader.