Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Who Are You Writing For? Nanowrimo Week 4

I hope the answer is that you’re writing for yourself.
Because unlike the rest of the year, for one entire glorious month Nanowrimo gives us permission to abandon thinking about “the market.” Instead of worrying about query letter techniques or whether Aunt Edna will be offended when we use bad words in our manuscript or whether vampires are still “in” or if anybody is reading family sagas these days, we can let go and write what we darn well please. Nanowrimo is your free pass to find out what you and only you love to write about.

The other night when I was struggling to bring my word count to a reasonable level before getting too far behind, my husband asked me if I “really needed another manuscript.” Well, of course I don’t. I’ve got manuscripts coming out of my ears, closets, and overstuffed filing cabinets. Having another manuscript at this stage of my writing life isn’t the point. What I do need to learn and be reminded of is that I have the self-discipline and desire to write at all. With Nanowrimo I have the opportunity to fall in love with writing all over again because in many ways it is the writing closest to my heart.

One thing I am certain of is that if and when I reach the required 50K mark to “win” Nanowrimo this year, my story will be far from finished. I don’t just mean that it will need a complete revision and ruthless editing; I mean I won’t be writing the words “The End” at the close of November 30. The main reason for this is it has taken me most of the month to discover and learn what the heck I am doing when I sit down for my daily writing sessions. When I started this crazy Nano journey, I had a rough vision that my plot would involve the theme of symbolic life doorways and the passing of time and what it means to live a life worth living.

With the best of intentions I dutifully picked up my pen and began writing on November 1 about a character named Robert Moreno and his family’s love of tamales. Don’t ask why—it just happened that way. Maybe because there was a Mexican restaurant in the airport where I was writing at the time. From there I followed Robert until for some bizarre reason I ended up at a convent and nuns doing laundry. The manuscript got sillier and sillier, more like a comic farce than the literary masterpiece I was aiming for. But then out of the blue I started following the thread of a story about one of the young novices and my original blueprint came back to me. Everything started falling into place as I began to explore in depth what it means for a young girl to go against her parents, society, and to break away from everything she has been raised to respect and believe in. Finally, at Week Four I can say I am engaged with both my manuscript and my characters and yes, I do need them very, very much.

2010 is going to be a crazy year for me as I suspect it might be for you too. I have a new book scheduled for publication in the summer and two manuscripts I want to get into serious shape for submission. But sneaking in through the back of these plans I know I will also be working on finishing Ghazal at the same time. I’m excited that this story came into my life. Even if I don’t reach my 50K, I’ll have gained much more than I could have imagined. I’ll have gained Robert Moreno and Hillary Stuart and the kind of insights into life and love that can only be gained by writing about them.

So to those of you still pounding away at your keyboards or refilling your fountain pens, I salute you. And to those who have perhaps drifted away because you have become a little fearful or tired or bored or feeling defeated, come on—back to work! The goal is still in sight, and believe me, it’s not the 50K. It’s that wonderful story that only you could write and it’s hungry for your attention.

Tip of the day: No matter where you are in your word count, don’t give up. Your story needs you and you need your story. It just takes one word at a time and I know you can do it. Let’s go!

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