When Creativity Doesn’t Sleep
Okay, so here’s the rundown on creative writing: not only is it an exercise of the imagination, it’s also a radical act of empathy. For the entirety of your novel, you are putting yourself in unfamiliar shoes and attempting to understand your characters’ actions — actions that you might never choose for yourself. Your characters, although completely imaginary, start to feel real, and they begin to do stuff! They act, they react, and they take on lives of their own. It’s your job, as the narrator, to determine which moments to capture and which to eliminate. These decisions strengthen the plot, build your characters, and encourage the reader to do what they do best: read on!
If it sounds like a big job, it’s because it is!
And every November, hundreds of thousands of amateur writers (myself included!) voluntarily commit their lives to the act of novel-writing with NaNoWriMo. For 30 days straight, the goal is to write feverishly — oftentimes day and night — until you reach 50,000 words. Many people ask, “What is so significant about that number? Why 50,000 words?” I’ll tell you why. Because 50,000 words is considered a short novel (think The Great Gatsby). This amount gives you a foundational plot structure to revisit at a later date to revise, perfect, and eventually share with the universe!
Okay, so maybe you don’t want to share it with the universe.
Whatever the intention, all Wrimos (writers who participate in NaNoWriMo) can attest to one thing: this is a BIG. HAIRY. AUDACIOUS. GOAL. Possibly one of the biggest and hairiest you’ll ever choose to pursue. Writing a novel in a month is no easy feat! It requires perseverance, self-discipline, and a constant influx of steaming hot coffee at your fingertips.
But the payoff is huge. Sure, you’ve ignored your family for an entire month. You’ve locked yourself in a quiet room with a computer or notepad to keep the distractions at bay. You’ve fueled your body with horrific chemicals in the vain of juicing just one more hour out of an already stretched day. But this week thousands of Wrimos across the nation are celebrating the fact that they’ve done it! They’ve accomplished something that most people only dream of one day doing; they’ve written a novel!
And I’m so excited to be among them!
Celebrate Good Times!
On November 27th, I sped past the 50,000 mark and won! And let me tell you something I’m ashamed to admit: I never believed I could do it. There were nights when I would whine, try to throw in the towel, bang my forehead against the keyboard (yes, this happened), but my amazing, incredible, supportive, loving, endearing husband would throw that towel right back at me. He pushed me when I couldn’t even push myself. My support team has been incredible. And for that, I am grateful!
In celebration of this mighty accomplishment, I want to share with you a small piece of the unbelievably magical world I’ve been living in for the past month. It is both mysterious and dangerous, heart-warming and heart-wrenching, and has become a place of refuge from the monotony of everyday life. It’s a fascinating world with equally fascinating characters, and because I’m not quite ready to depart from them, I’ll be pursuing this project well into the foreseeable future.
If you’re considering tackling NaNoWriMo in 2016, I have two simple words of encouragement for you: DO IT. You won’t regret it, I promise! You will come out on the other side with more words than you have written in the past month, year, or even decade! The only thing you’ve got to lose is your dream. I say pursue it! And you won’t believe how wonderful it feels when you finally reach it.
Excerpt: The River Down Below
By Nicole Love
“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned….”
Declan Hunter anxiously kneeled on the opposite side of the confessional, eyes searching the darkness before him. The panic and adrenaline that had sustained him over the last six hours had begun to diminish, leaving him haggard and weary. His pounding heart raced on, despite the fatigue that tugged at his eyelids.
“What are you doing here?” whispered the priest harshly through the lattice of the partition. Fear lit the man’s eyes. “I knew this was a bad idea, Declan. I warned you not to get involved with that woman.”
“Paul, I did something terrible. I think” — dread and nausea crept into Declan’s stomach and he swallowed the bile rising up in his throat — “I think I killed a man!”
Silence. His words reverberated off the wooden walls surrounding him.
Paul fell back into his seat with a thud. Declan was sure that if there was a single moment in the man’s life in which he would permit himself to curse, this would be it. His old friend ran a hand across his face, over the crow’s feet that lined the corners of his eyes, down the frown lines that framed his mouth.
“Okay,” he said. “Tell me what happened. Tell me why you’re here and not three states away.”
“She wasn’t careful. Dammit, she wasn’t careful. He followed us and now he’s laying on the floor of that hotel room, and I think I killed him!”
“What in the world did you get yourself into, Dec?”
“He had a gun to her head, Paul. What was I supposed to do?”
Paul closed his eyes. The same dread that had enveloped Declan was reflected on his friend’s face.
“I think you know exactly what you need to do,” said Paul, leaning forward to face Declan through the metal grate. “But I can’t be the one to tell you to do it.”
Sirens in the distance. The priest and the sinner locked eyes. Declan’s heart pounded thicker in his chest and he ran a trembling hand through his already disheveled hair.
“You need to go,” said Paul. But Declan was already on his feet.