And Then I Found . . .

Shortly after committing to NaNoWriMo, I left town for a week long conference. After the event, I planned a visit a nearby cousin afterward. Since she is the daughter of my father’s sister, I shared my writing plans with her.

As we talked, she mentioned she might have some information that would be helpful. Her mother had been the keeper of all the family documents once our grandfather was gone. When her mother downsized, my cousin took possession of everything.

Together, we went through some of the boxes in her attic. We came upon a treasure trove – letters sent by my father to his father during the journey. There were seven of them and they provided a wealth of information about his route, his schedule, and, most importantly, about his feelings. They are fascinating and will be invaluable to me in my writing. I scanned the letters with my portable scanner.

She also had a copy of the report from the private investigator who was hired by my grandfather after my father disappeared. I wanted to scan that, too, but it was held together by a rusty staple I was reluctant to remove. She encouraged me to take the report and the letters home. I was eager to read everything!

NaNoWriMo

nanowrimologoLast year, a colleague introduced me to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Each November, over 300,000 people worldwide attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. That works out to 1,667 words per day, every day for 30 days.  The four day weekend that is Thanksgiving falls in November, last year ending on November 30. We drive ten hours each way to spend the holiday with family.

I was reluctant to participate because I’m highly competitive and I wasn’t comfortable making a commitment like that and not finishing. I also knew that besides Thanksgiving, I was going to be out of town for two weeks. I could write a lot of that time, but some of it was vacation and I had to take the rest of my family into consideration.  Still, in early October, I took the plunge and signed up for NaNoWriMo. Then I left for a weeklong conference.

As I found out later, of the 300,000 who sign on, approximately 12-14% actually get to 50,000 words. People who do finish are considered winners. I knew that not everyone made it, but I’m glad I didn’t know the success rate was as low as it is. I think I might have given myself permission to not finish. As it was, I didn’t consider coming up short an option. (Note to self: forget those statistics for next time!)

Once I made the commitment, I had to figure out what I was doing. Writers will tell you there are essentially two kinds of writers: plotters and pantsers. Plotters plan ahead, figuring out how the story will go, preparing character studies, determining settings, and creating an outline. On the other hand, maybe they have a vague idea of their story or a character whispering in their ear, but mostly pantsers sit down to write ‘by the seat of their pants.’

People who know me realize I would be a plotter. Unfortunately, the schedule I committed to did not afford me the luxury of a month or more of planning. I had the beginning of a story idea and some characters and some scenes in mind. Mostly, though, I would be writing by the seat of my pants. At the end of November, I hoped to have a 50,000 word rough draft. A very rough draft, but at least a start.

For more information about NaNoWriMo, visit nanowrimo.org.