July 15, 2009

NaNoWriMo 2008

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) takes place every November around the world. According to the web site, it is "a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30."

Armed with only a vague outline in my mind, I set out to write a first draft of On the Bridge. It turned out I could write much more than I expected, even though I had to fight with my inner editor on a daily basis. With 30 days, a full-time job, family, Thanksgiving, report cards to write, and other assorted tasks, I managed to carve out time to research and cobble together a skeleton of a first draft. By November 30, I had written around 45,000 words.

One important thing I learned from NaNo is the importance of community and having others around to provide encouragement. A motivating e-mail or a glance at others' word count widgets helped to propel me toward the goal of 50k. While I didn't "win" NaNo '08, I am significantly closer to my goal of writing a novel than I was when took the challenge.

Whatever task you may be struggling to complete (or even begin), know that when we bring others alongside us to spur us on, we are motiviated to finish and finish well. Encouragement and accountability create the foundation for success.

July 6, 2009

A story begins to take shape

Seven months after writing the sad challenge entry, I sensed there was more to Mary Elizabeth's story than what I had already written. The topic for the week was "Actions speak louder than words." I imagined what Mary Elizabeth would be doing months later, and developed the story around her having to face a decision. I titled the story Letters and Promises and submitted it. Here is the link to the entry. The piece placed 13th in the advanced level and 36th overall.

As others read the story, the general theme of the comments centered on this piece being part of a novel. This seemed to be a daunting task. I'm used to writing short stories and articles. Novels are much, much longer. Yet, even with other writing assignments to pursue, I kept coming back to Mary Elizabeth's life. Other characters, such as her brother-in-law, William, her brother, Edward, and his wife, Margaret, began to become real people. I thought maybe I could link the two stories into a short story and submit it somewhere. God had other plans, though.

In April, 2008 I attended a local Christian writers' conference. While there, two important things happened. One, I attended a workshop on novel writing taught by Alison Stobel. She discussed a way of creating a novel known as the "Snowflake Method". More on that in the next post. The second thing was I met Cathy Marie Hake, who writes historical romance novels. I showed her a copy of On the Bridge and asked her opinion of it. She said, "There's a novel here." That was enough motivation for me to explore writing a book.

Over the past two years I've learned that if God has a job for one of us to do, then He will make sure we find a way to accomplish the task. Also, His plans for us are often larger than the dreams we have for ourselves.