NaNoWriMo vs. ReNoReMo

“Doing” who he is.
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is hovering. 

Started in 1999 with something like 21 actual participants, it’s become a tradition in its own right with nearly 200,000 people taking the challenge last year. 

The challenge: Participants register for this internet-based creative writing bit of insanity, committing themselves to try writing 50,000 words of a new novel (or something) between November 1 and November 30. 

I’ve taken the challenge three times, and finished. You submit your collected words to a word counting system on their website to be confirmed. This constitutes you being classified as a “winner.” 

The first time I did it was 2004. I was pretty washed-out by November 30, but I was also thrilled beyond definition. I’d proven to myself that I could write 50,000 words within a 30-day period. Actually–(I kept my writing calendar from that year)–I accomplished the challenge in 24 days as there were 6 days I didn’t put any words in at all. ☺ 

But I’m not going to do it this year. 

This year I’m going to do: ReNoReMo — Rebecca’s Novel Revision Month. (Kudos for this acronym goes to my youngest daughter, Jennifer.) 

My task list for November is long what with a historical play I’m rehearsing for, new writing assignments recently accepted in addition to the regular column expectations. I promised to sew the period costume I’ll wear for the play presentation later on in November and we will be traveling for Thanksgiving. We have two grandbabies on the way and two baby quilt projects await me down the hall in my sewing room. So . . . I feel I need to sit out any new novel writing, but I want to participate in the month somehow, thus: ReNoReMo. 

I plan to devote time every day to working on the line edits that have been glaring at me for the past few months. I’ll have to hold myself accountable, something akin to weighing oneself once a week, but not telling anyone what the scale registered. (Hell has a better chance of freezing and thawing ten times in the next century than me revealing weekly weigh-in results.) 

Possibly you are not up to taking the 50,000 word challenge yet. That’s okay. 

How about picking out one project, writing or otherwise, that’s been dogging you for a while and setting your sites on completing it during the month of November? 

Decide on what that project is and then take the first two letters of your name, the project, the type of work you will do and finish with “Mo” denoting month. 

GeorgeAnn finish short story – GeFiSsMo

Robert clean basement – RoCleBaMo

Jenna write thank yous – JeWriThuMo

Brenda bake fruitcakes – BreBaFruMo 

It might sound like gibberish, but if it gives you a goal—or a challenge—what do you care what it sounds like? Write your acronym for the month on a sticky note and put it on your refrigerator where you’ll see it every day and then dig in. 

You will be very proud of yourself come November 30 when you realize what you accomplished. 

Borrow the impetus of NaNoWriMo to be different to get what you want — or need — done this month. 

Saints and Angels won’t lie to you.

      A good friend of mine gave me a beautiful set of Saints & Angels Oracle cards as a Christmas gift. The set was compiled by “The Angel Lady”—Doreen Virtue, Ph.D. She’s appeared on such television shows as Good Morning America, Oprah, The View and CNN to mention a few.

      There are people ‘out there’ who will never believe this, but we all have at least one guardian angel. And the saints really don’t care if you’re not Catholic.

      I tend to believe I have four guardian angels, but to this day I cannot explain what went wrong last August when I got a speeding ticket via the new speed cameras posted on I-380 around Cedar Rapids. Evidently, my four chose not to intervene on my behalf that day. Ah, well. I paid the fine and am getting on with my life in spite of it.

     Tonight I finally opened the deck and read the guidebook that came with them. The cards have beautiful artistic renditions of the major Saints and Angels. You will remember that it was an angel named Gabriel who brought the news of the new baby on Christmas—

     The card I drew was labeled ‘Steady Progress’—with a picture of St. Therese of Lisieux on it. She was a Carmelite nun who recorded her mystical experiences in a book called The Story of a Soul.

     The guidebook explained my card to me:

     “You’ve been making steady progress, and it’s important for you to recognize that this progress (not perfection) is what’s important. This is a message for you to appreciate how much you’ve already achieved and how many people you’ve helped along the way. Keep your focus away from any lapses that you think you’ve made. Guilt and regrets never helped anyone, so let them go today.

You’re also asked to forgive yourself for what you think you’ve done or not done.”

     Wow. Talk about a right-on card. I started thinking ahead to the writing projects waiting for me shortly. Maybe some of it is coming from a case of the post-holiday tireds, but for a little while today I felt overwhelmed at the thought of even starting on the shaping process on that NaNoWriMo manuscript I created in November, and scaling up my querying process for the completed Iron Angel manuscript. And getting the next two paid gigs done in the best shape and form that I can. And finishing that Unfinished Letter essay to my late grandmother that came to me one day . . .

     I put a concern to the Universe, and then drew the card that I did this evening.

     Saints and Angels. Who can’t use a little tender encouragement now and then?

A re-e-eally big pile of —!


Lots and lots of words. 

50,160 of them to be exact. 

Last night I finished my novel writing month challenge for 2010. 

Residing on my hard drive now is: 

An insanely large amount of exposition. 

A couple of pretty good analogies that just came out of my mind and fingers—from—Divine Intervention, perhaps? 

Maybe twelve good sentences, if I’m really, really lucky . . . 

The hint of this becoming a mystery.

A sense of the deep sadness and fear that does reside in people from time to time, and last but not least,

a revealing, humorous rant with leading lady Margarite after she’d had way too much wine to drink and flew into a raging, profane tirade against life and anything else that got in her way one evening. (I had no idea she would talk like that.) She came up with a naughty acronym for the new school for young girls that she threatens to open . . . Ohhhhh, Margarite–tsk, tsk, tsk. 

I sat on the sofa at night with the TV going in the background and typed. The laptop was up and running on our kitchen table during the days, and in between other tasks like lining up article interviews, baking for upcoming parties, paying bills, etc. I’d sit down and tap in the words or sentences that sprung up. Some nights I didn’t allow myself to go to bed until I had met my quota of words for the day. 

That’s how the big things get done. And now it’s time to haul out Christmas decorations and make some more phone calls. 🙂

The Means For Sharing

Author Margaret Atwood’s wise words say it all:

   “Anybody who writes a book is an optimist.

    First of all, they think they’re going to finish it.

    Second, they think somebody’s going to publish it.

   Third, they think somebody’s going to read it.

    Fourth, they think somebody’s going to like it.

    How optimistic is that?”

        Seven years ago I took a week-long novel writing class through the Iowa Summer Writing Festival hosted by The Iowa Writer’s Workshop every summer. The topic of the week-long session was: The First 10 pages of Your Novel. I was excited. I had about 40 pages of my first-ever novel manuscript in the works and I’d been enjoying the road to discovery with it.

        After our group had gathered into the classroom that we’d share for the week and gone around the table introducing ourselves to each other, the instructor asked—what to this day I consider the most important question any writer should ask themselves–“Do you know why you want to write your novel?”      

     And then we went around the table again sharing our answers. Not one person said anything about becoming rich and famous. One person said she enjoyed light mystery and simply wanted to try and write one. Another was exploring the depths of a character that was stuck in her head, and she needed to see where that was going to lead.

     I knew the minute the question was out in the room what my answer would be. “I simply want to give people a break.” He nodded at me, listening. “There’s so much crap going on all the time in this world, and I think people need something to escape with,” I remember explaining. (So terribly gallant and optimistic sounding, don’t you think? But I still believe it.)

     I’m drafting a new novel during this National Novel Writing Month Challenge this November. By November 30 I will have 50,000 words in place. I have no idea what the heart of the story is about yet.

     One of my protags, a lady named Margarite, in this November writing is a woman who has received some disquieting medical news. This was her closing thought before I shut the computer off Saturday night:

     “She didn’t want to give up—dry up—and be blown away like this. Alone, sick—maybe dying—and be tossed out like some crumpled up candy wrapper whose contents had been savored and devoured, and was now supposed to just disappear quietly into the trash bin.”

       Something tells me there might be plenty of people who could identify with Margarite.

        If I could be lucky enough to write something that allowed someone to step away from some of their daily pandemonium, and maybe—just maybe—find a bit of common ground through some of the non-fiction stories, or even a fictional character’s thoughts—for even a little while—I will have done my job as a writer.     

Show up, Shut up and Put Out


National Novel Writing Month Challenge



The title of this post is not about what you might think.

Last week I signed on—once again—to take on the National Novel Writing Month ( challenge that takes place every November, and has since 1999.

In order to “win,” you have to input 50,000 new words of a novel draft between November 1st and November 30th.  I’ve participated and won twice now—the first time in 2004 and again in 2007. The novel I drafted in 2004 I have finished, and revised, and edited, and re-finished and revised and edited (you get the idea-right?) to the point that the novel is the current one that I am hunting for an agent and/or publisher for these days.

I entered that particular manuscript in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Competition in 2008, and out of the 5,000 entries, it survived the first round of cuts to be among the 800 semifinalists that were chosen. The manuscript that finally took first prize that year featured a protagonist who sprayed the “f-bomb” in the opening pages like it was pigeon feed. Shows you what I know—right?

I have two other writing friends who are going to take on this craziness this month as well, along with literally thousands of writers around the world. And the only way we’ll be able to crawl through the finish line at midnight on November 30th is if we show up, shut up and put out—lots and lots and lots of words. Not perfect words; just words.

It really can be done. We’ll tell the critical self-editor-demon nagging at us behind our chairs to take a hike and we’ll support each other on the NaNoWriMo forums and in coffee shops, and through emails.

I’ve got the laundry done, the bills are paid, the house is clean and the yard work caught up for this week. I have to conduct an interview tomorrow for a last-minute paying gig that came in—that article will be due on the editor’s desk by Wednesday night. I’ll make it. I tutor on Tuesday afternoons. We do not live on take-out food. I have no idea what else life will toss in to complicate the month, but I know one thing: I Will Write.

I’ll post my progress as the month goes.

Wish me well? Or–join me? It’s not too late!  ;-}