Monday, November 25, 2013

Why NoMo

by Joan

I was all set to participate in NaNoWriMo. Then life intervened. Several years back when I was ready to start a new story, I began in November and wrote about 30,000 words. I’m not a fast writer, but thought I could benefit from some added motivation. Last year I was revising a manuscript and didn’t want to start something new.

I’ve never loved the idea of cramming words on a page because I have a hard time moving on from a sentence if I know it sucks. I’ve always been one to revise as I write, then edit and revise some more. But a few months ago I started researching and sketching ideas for my next novel, so the timing was right this year.

Karen Harrington ran a wonderful post about her own NaNoWriMo experience and encouraged writers to go for it. Then I read a FaceBook post from Caroline Leavitt. “Writing is not typing!” I thought that was wise, too. And so, as always, there are no “shoulds” in writing, only that each writer must do what works best for her or him.

I’m spurred on by Karen’s encouragement and the excitement of this idea that is a story only I could tell. I have a voice in my head that I seem to have met a long time ago. A voice that has been hiding, waiting to grab the keyboard. I’m letting her go. For the first time I’m leaving blanks and highlights everywhere. Names, places, games, lots of details that will emerge from further research of the time period. I’m allowing myself to write quickly and not everything is in order. As the scenes come to me, I write them.

I began to tally my November words. On the 7th, my 89-year-old mother fell, broke some ribs and punctured a lung. I moved up my Thanksgiving flight and extended my stay in Maryland and slept next to her in the hospital during those first days. The most writing I did was to jot questions for the doctor or punch out a few texts to family and friends. “She’s confused and in pain,” or “hospital is so understaffed.” There were some bright moments: “Today my mom said, ‘for some reason, all of a sudden Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is a big hit again.”

She was transported to a rehab facility on a blustery cold day and is slowly learning to use a walker again. Because of some cognitive issues, she might not get back to living as independently as she had been. She’s still a fall risk. One day she was caught using her tray table as a walker. 

I’m writing most days and have managed to write about 12,000 good words. She’s telling me snippets of her life I’ve never heard before and I’m writing them, too. I’ll never know if they’re true or a product of painkillers. I won’t get to 50,000 words, but I’m spending time with my mom who likely won’t be around to see any of my books published.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. And how’s your NaNoWriMo going?


  1. Joan, I had the same thought as you this weekend: My mom will not likely live to see my being published. But then I tallied up the things she DID live to see--my marriage to a good man, my three amazing children and all the times we spent together--from my first day on earth through now. In light of those accomplishments and moments, seeing my name on a book seems inconsequential. I'm sure you realize that too.

  2. Yes, you're absolutely right, Pamela. With four girls, four grandchildren and one great grandchild, she has witnessed a lot in all of our lives. Especially since, (shhhh, don't tell the others!) I'm her favorite!

  3. You guys know I'm a fan of NaNo, but I always make up my own rules and goal. This year it's finishing my ms and getting it to my agent, but I fear it will actually not happen until after our retreat. That's ok. :) I loved this post and the pics.

  4. Joan, I got a lump in my throat reading your lovely post. It's bittersweet when we know our aging parents will miss important milestones in our lives, isn't it? Best wishes. (Love the "holding hands" photo.)

  5. Thanks Julie! Yes, setting goals is key. Here's to meeting them!

  6. Thanks for your kind comment, Cindy. I'm giving my mom's hands a manicure today! Time is slowing down during these few weeks and I'm cherishing the lighter moments.


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