December 1, 2010

crossing the finish line

Long time no see.

I suppose you could say I've been on a blogging hiatus the past few months. I know there are no good excuses, but I'm going to make a few anyways. Here are the top five reasons I have not been updating my blog:
1. I moved back to Nebraska in September, which essentially rocked my world.
2. I don't have Internet at home, currently, so I must depend on the kindness of strangers.
3. Since moving back to Nebraska, I've made five trips back to the Gulf Coast (No. 6 will be next week). That also means that I've had a lot of writing to do for work to complete various projects before the end of the year.
4. Football season started, and I spent a lot of Saturdays drinking beer and cheering on my Huskers during their final Big 12 season.
5. I've been busy writing a novel.

Yes, you read that correctly. I've been working on a novel. A few in fact.

During September I dabbled on a book that I first began to develop about two years ago. I made the outline and a detailed working synopsis. I also wrote the prologue and part of the first chapter. Then I stopped.

Then, Nov. 1, thanks to a one of my friends posting something on her Facebook profile, I realized it was National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. During NaNoWriMo people are challenged to write 50,000 original words toward a novel. The rules state that the words must all be produced between midnight Nov. 1 and 11:59 p.m. Nov. 30. Once you upload your text to the website, you're named a winner. There's no cash prize, or offers for publication, but you do get the satisfaction of being called a winner.

I first learned about NaNoWriMo last year. On Nov. 23. It seemed a little late to start then. However, because I'm a naturally competitive person, the contest appealed to me. I made a pledge that I would participate in 2010.

So, when I saw that post staring me in the face I decided I had to at least try. At 8 p.m. that day I registered for an account and began writing my working synopsis. Before bed I had outlined the first few chapters and written my cold open.

The next day I left for a quick business trip to Houston, but I went prepared. I used the flight to and from as an opportunity to keep working on my detailed outline. I was off to a great start.

It came easily to me at first. I'd been thinking about this book off an on for the past 19 months or so, and I was at a good place mentally and emotionally to finally write it. I figured writing 1,667 words a day would be no big deal.

Then work happened.

With a vacation from work scheduled for Thanksgiving week I had to gather two newsletters and write three before Nov. 18. Also factor in that I had four weekly projects shows to write out. Those first three weeks I was responsible for turning in about 24,000 words of content for work. Needless to say, that kept me pretty busy.

So, I decided, I'd write a little when I could and devote my nine-day break from work to my novel.

Then life happened.

My first few days of vacation I spent most of my time in bed nursing a rocking cold and fever. I hurt so badly I couldn't even read books let alone write them.

By that Monday morning I wasn't feeling 100 percent, but I figured I was well enough to write. And so I did.

So I wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and wrote.

When I woke Nov. 28, my last day of reprieve before returning to the office, I sat at about 32,000 words. I had a long ways to go. So Sunday, I holed myself up at home all day and write more than 8,000 words. Before and after work (and during my lunch) I wrote the remaining 10,000 words Monday and Tuesday.

At 8:30 p.m. Nov. 30 I checked my word count and screamed (quite literally). I was at 50,167 words. I'd done it. I was going to be able to upload my text (encrypted, because I am a little paranoid) to the NaNoWriMo website for verification.

Without Internet at home I went to a local bookstore/ coffee shop to use their WiFi. Unfortunately, I was apparently not the only procrastinator uploading words to the website. My connection was so slow, and their server so busy, I couldn't even get the page to open before the shop closed at 10 p.m.

I couldn't believe it. I'd come all this way and accomplished my goal of writing 50,000 words in one month, and I wasn't going to be able to officially call myself a winner.

Then a good friend of mine saved the day. Using her High-Speed Internet, she uploaded the text on my behalf. Just after 10 it became official. I was a winner. I had taken the NaNoWriMo challenge and come out a winner.

Elated doesn't even come close to describing how I feel writing this.

I still have a ways to go on the book. I estimate that it will be between 100,000 and 110,000 words when it is completed, so I'm about halfway there, and will need to keep going. Plus, for all I know, I could have 50,000 words of crap sitting in my computer file.

But even with these uncertainties, I'm walking away from this experience knowing I can do it. I can write a novel.

(I'd like to note that even though I did spend a lot of my time writing, I still managed to have a life. For example, I:
• Read two novels and nine holiday novellas. This is less than I'd normally read, but still pretty good.
• Decorated two Christmas trees.
• Made 40 paper snowflakes to hang on my windows.
• Addressed and wrote out all of my Christmas cards.
• Baked three pies and three loaves of bread.
• Went to the Midnight Harry Potter screening, and attended a pre-movie event.
• Planned a book club and writing group.
• Watched all of the Husker football games with friends or at Memorial Stadium.)

For anyone on the fence about participating in NaNoWriMo in the future, I encourage you to try it. You may reach the 50K milestone, but then again you might not. Either way, you're challenging yourself to be creative, get motivated and change your life.

With a clean bill of health, and a much lighter work load at the office thanks to my November marathon, I plan to keep working on my novel. If I really try, I hope I can have it finished by the end of December.

Wouldn't that be a fantastic way to end one year and begin the next?

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