When I wrote my 25, 000th word for National Novel Writing Month, it reminded me of swimming through the Boulder Reservoir to touch the ice during the Polar Plunge on New Year’s Day. They’re both a sink or swim venture. It got tough when I could barely touch the bottom. My legs and arms grew heavy with the cold and they moved in slow motion. In place of the silly grin I wore while splashing into the frigid water was sheer determination and a painful wince. One of the lifeguards standing on the pier shouted, “Do you need help?” It was hard to breathe, but I yelled back, “I can do it!”
I don’t know how many have dropped out of NaNoWriMo already, but the numbers have got to be high. I think writing 50,000 words in a month takes a certain kind of endurance. Crazy endurance. It’s for crazy people who have the time to commit, or in my case should be committed, but also have a lot of nerve and stamina. I love taking on new challenges and always have.
Not everyone can sit down and write on command. It can be intimidating to stare at a blank page. I’ve never had writer’s block. Maybe it’s all those Thursdays I found myself on a deadline and would crank out a Friday flash fiction or the stream-of-conscious writing exercises from a year ago when I woke up every morning for a month and wrote one word at time in a notebook until I filled a page. In both, I wrote the first thing that popped into my head.
I learned to trust myself. That’s what it takes. Trust. I never freak out. I think that’s the key. I don’t focus on one thing, but let the story take over like a dream. It seems to write itself. When I sit down, I let my mind wander around the scene while I imagine the surroundings and what it must feel like. Then I let my characters hang out in the space. If there’s a decision that makes them more awkward or uncomfortable to create tension and drama that’s the direction I take.
My first book was written by the seat of my pants and went through many revisions. I planned out this book with what James Rollins calls, tent poles. My ideas are written on post-it notes and stuck to a big W so I know where I’ll end up. The fun part for me is the adventure in getting there. I’m on edge while I’m writing as my plot thickens and my character gets into more trouble. She doesn’t know what’s up ahead.
This NaNoWriMo adventure also appeals to my competitive nature. I love updating my word total since it’s a rush to see how fast it accumulates. Having buddies ahead and behind keeps me going too. I’m hanging right in the middle of my small pack. If I continue to write 2000 words per day, I should finish several days early.
I’ll hit thirty grand words today after pushing through the last few days. I thought it would be easier after hitting the halfway point and I would float in with the tide to the finish. Instead I checked my word total like a nervous tick while my arms and legs remained numb.
Now I can touch bottom again and am using my arms to pull me forward. I’m in it to win it. I can do this! Some of my buddies have dropped out and are on the pier with the lifeguard cheering the rest of us on. I’m still in the center of my small pack. I’m swimming away from the icy cold water in the middle of my 50,000 word lake. The water is getting warmer and I can see the shoreline up ahead.
Can you write under a deadline?