National Novel Writing Month


Four years ago, a teacher I worked with sent me an announcement for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). His message: “You sound like you might have a novel in you.”

His observation came on the heels of our first ever Open Microphone event in the middle school library. The librarian wanted to encourage students to write, so she offered a forum where they could read aloud a piece of personal writing.

As with everything you hope to see young students do effectively, creative writing and baring your soul to others should be modeled. She asked staff members to voluntarily read some of their writing. In response, I read the opening pages of a story that kept popping into my mind.

I fully intended to write that story. It was going to be the first in a series of a Middle School Mayhem series that would make me famous.

In my defense, I do have two chapters completed and saved in a Scrivener folder. Like so many other writing projects, life got in the way.

If you’ve been following me long, you know that I spent three years completing my bachelor’s degree while working full-time. The idea of writing something creative in addition to all the research papers and term papers made random, fleeting appearances in my mind. Obligations drowned them.

After I was assigned a blog for my nonfiction writing workshop, I decided to attempt to write a thousand words per week to post online. No one would read most of this stuff, but I would get back in the habit of writing, even if it was creative nonfiction.

Fast forward to present day: college degree completed. Now it’s time to pursue my real dream: writing.

I’ve always imagined myself as a novelist. My imagination has taken me to the top of Mt. Everest, to Mars and to realms beyond this reality. I wanted to invite young readers into the alternate universe between the covers of the book.

An admirer of C.S. Lewis (whose Chronicles of Narnia rescued me from the ugliness of domestic abuse and divorce), I didn’t want to just entertain. I wanted my fiction to include a deeper truth. Allegory seemed like the way to accomplish this goal.

Thus, my idea for the Gates of Astrya emerged from my soul into my mind. With a little work and a ton of time, words on a page birthed it into actuality.

During November, my goal is to write the second book in this series (originally, I thought it would be a trilogy, but it’s taking on a life of its own and might require four books to fully resolve).  I’ve already signed up on the NaNoWriMo website.

To ensure I can keep writing to the end, I completed a beat sheet (thanks to Jami Gold) and an extensive setting sketch. I’ve done some research to authenticate the setting I’ve chosen. Major character arcs have been outlined, along with the cast of supporting characters.

Today, I write the first 3,000 words of the novel. Since I want to complete the challenge (to write 50,000 words in 30 days) by November 27, I’m setting my daily word count at this level.

I promise not to bog down my blog with updates and commentary about this event. I have worked feverishly the past two weeks to get most of my posts pre-written so content will continue here without interruption.

Are any of you taking this challenge? What other sorts of challenges have you pursued? What’s the most important advice you have to help someone stay the course when things seem overwhelming?

5 thoughts on “National Novel Writing Month”

  1. Good for you! I wish you tons of luck in NaNo. And you’ve already completed so much that you set out to do that I’m sure you’ll do great with this goal too. 🙂 Thanks for linking to my post and sharing your goal with the world!

  2. Good luck with your writing Sharon. I’m so glad you love the Narnia books! They are some of my absolute favourites. I was just wondering how you are managing incorporating your deeper message into your novel. I originally aimed to do this with my current project, but everything I thought of just seemed like it was being shoe-horned in, and just seemed a bit preachy.
    Thanks for this post,

    1. Rachel-
      I will have to add most of these elements in the rewrite. Since I’m writing an allegory, I have characters in my work that are standing in for God, angels and Satan. Other than that, I’m trying to weave my themes in using character self-discovery.
      I plan to study the Narnia books more closely to see how the symbolism undergirds the story. I never noticed the allegory of those stories when I first discovered them in grade school. When I read them aloud to my own sons, it was obvious that Aslan was symbolic of Jesus Christ.
      In short, I’m not sure I can effectively write these stories without either being preachy or so subtle than no one sees the allegory. It is my ultimate goal, however, so I will continue to strive toward it.

  3. Pingback: The NaNo Bug – and Why I can’t Catch it this year | Sharon Lee Hughson

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