What Twins, Who Inhabit My Brain, and NaNoWriMo Taught Me

boy and girl fighting 2

When I decided to write a novel for National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo, I had no idea if I could. You see, a five-year-old child inhabits my brain and can throw quite the tantrum. If I don’t want to do something, she sends waves through the entire length of my spine which becomes rigid. Then she starts chanting, “I don’t want to. I don’t want to! I DON’T WANT TO!” This screaming fit is usually accompanied by the stomping of feet and the transformation of ordinary household objects into projectile missiles.

Knowing what could happen, I had been reluctant to join the madness of NaNoWriMo. What I didn’t realize was the five-year-old has a fraternal twin. After committing to the insanity, he came to my rescue when I hit the 25,000 word wall. This child is super stubborn and won’t give up no matter what. He set his stance and lifted his chin toward the computer screen. When I really wanted a day off and the hissy fit had hit a new high, he told her, “Shut the hell up!”

It worked! The screaming stopped and I was able to settle back into my pace.

After 23 days, I finished a 50,000 word rough draft.

What did I learn other than realizing I have arguments in my head?

  • Heating pads are very effective for neck pain.
  • Building word totals can be as addictive as a treat in one of Pavlov’s Dogs maze experiments, especially when trying to make or beat a daily average.
  • Competition between others in buddy groups, is similar to running a race. The desire to stay in the middle of the pack and pace myself kept me going until the end. I imagined the back of the group kicking me in the butt as they drew near.
  • The only way to write a first draft is by flying through it without correcting or rereading any of it. I know my rewrite will be a challenge, but the main storyline is there. It’s easy to slash and burn or blow up pages with a word processor. I can deal with that later.
  • Time spent setting up plot points on post-it notes and sticking them to a poster board in October paid off. A couple of times, I wondered what should happen next. Instead of over-thinking it, I studied my board and wrote a scene which moved the plot forward. I had to trust my gut.
  • I learned that I am totally motivated by attaboys or encouragement, enthusiasm, and positive reinforcement from others to accomplish a goal. Okay. I already knew that. Virtual and real life cheer-leading from the sidelines and within the pack kept me on track and moving ahead. I could hear them shouting, “Go! Go! Go!” 
  • Hyphenated words are only counted once. Dang!
  • Just like hitting the halfway point wall, I needed my positive inner voice to carry me through the last few thousand words. I had imagined seeing the finish line would draw me into a writing frenzy. Instead, I cut way back and skied. Taking the day off ended the, I don’t want to, rant. The next day, the stubborn little tyrant had replaced the tantrum child. Once again, he lifted his chin toward the screen to keep me on pace to finish.
  • After writing the second book in the series, I decided to write all three before querying an agent. It took almost two years to write the draft of my first book. The second took three weeks. I’ve learned a ton in the process. I’m looking forward to rewriting them both while weaving the underlying story throughout and tying up loose ends in the third with a crazy-ass bow.
  • I am willing to do what it takes to get to the next level of writing and keep my readers entertained. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time just because I’m in a hurry to publish. I have downloaded and bought copies of books I’ve figuratively and literally thrown across my bedroom in frustration. I don’t want mine to land in the proverbial pile.
  • Writing in the morning and late in the day are times when my brain slows down enough to daydream about my characters and let them play out scenes.
  • The big drawback spending hours writing a book every day is dreaming about the book all night and not getting a break. I’ll never understand why I choose that when I could be having sex dreams. Sheesh!
  • It’s true that doing something every day for three weeks becomes a habit. After finishing the book, I stayed in hyperdrive and decorated my whole house for Christmas, entertained on Thanksgiving, cleaned and cyber-shopped. I am expecting a big crash any day now…
  • I dreaded creating our annual Christmas card because it had been a year since I had drawn anything, but still in the NaNoWriMo vortex, I cranked out the illustrations. What a surprise!
  • After searching for a photo for this blog post, I had a Eureka moment. I should include illustrations for my blog posts! We’ll see how that goes since the twins are lurking…

With every book there are challenges. I look forward to finishing the series. I just need to set up a word counter on my blog, hire a cheering section, and put that spoiled child, who inhabits my brain, in time out.

What have you learned from writing?

61 thoughts on “What Twins, Who Inhabit My Brain, and NaNoWriMo Taught Me

  1. No wild thoughts (to share) here at the moment. My imagination doesn’t stretch to a 50,000-word (hyphenated words count as a single) count. That’s a whole lot of writing. You’ll have plenty of words to work with during your editing. I think that’s the process that would freeze me in my tracks. Well done, Susie.

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    • Thank you! That tantrum twin was revolting before I started on the drawings, but the likenesses all came out really fast this year and inspired me to keep drawing.
      I wish I could summon the stubborn twin on command too!
      Thanks so much!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Peg!
      Some years, it has been hard to get the likeness of the family. This year it was super easy. It must be a combination of not being so hard on myself as I get older, lots of coffee and listening to Hallmark Christmas movies while I draw.
      I had been thinking about taking my blog to some kind of new level and then POW! We’ll see how long it lasts…

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  2. This is impressive – all those words in just a few short weeks! Have you ever considered writing a few blog posts on the whole draft/querying/publishing process? That certainly would be appreciated by this little writer. 😉

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  3. As slow as my writing is, I find my drawing to be even slower. Illustrating a blog is a good way for me to guarantee being even slower than I already am. Kudos for your accomplishment, and for apparently being able to crank out illustrations much faster than I could ever hope to.

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    • They usually take a lot longer. Not only does my brain inhabit twins, it must have been taken over by elves…I’m sure I’ll have my challenges when they go back to the North Pole… 🙂 Thanks 1Point!

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  4. It’s clear that you got much more than a draft of a book from doing NaNoWriMo, Susie, and that’s commendable. Bulk writing to make a deadline against essentially phantom competition isn’t my thing, but I’m not putting it down. I’m putting it with skiing: not my thing. And, as things go, I haven’t learned anything from writing. I just write. I’m dull that way.

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  5. Oh Susie, this whole post makes me so happy! The accomplishments and the twins, I love it!!! You can have so much fun with those twins; the possibilities are endless. It sounds like NaNoWriMo was exactly what you needed to get your little ass going!! LOL. xo

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  6. Wow, that is so impressive!! You’ve been a busy gal, I couldn’t even imagine writing that much! To answer your question.. I am fine, just back at work and find it difficult if not impossible to sustain the blog reading pace that I had before work. I have to say I miss it.. like today, if I hadn’t popped in I wouldn’t have known you’ve written books!! Actual books! I shall try the three week habit with my painting and see if that will work for me as well:) xx

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  7. I have become a bit haphazard with blogging lately so just dipping in and out and mostly deleting due to clearing emails due to being busier than usual and Christmas coming and blah blah.
    SO, SUSIE, I just wanted you to know that you are a source of pure joy and delight to me and I am sure to everyone. Even when I don’t have time to read any blogs, just the sight of your name in my email feed gives me my first smile of the day. Thank you!!!

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  8. Wow now that is awesome! I thought about taking part in NaNoWriMo this year, then chickened out because I knew I wouldn’t commit to it everyday for the whole month. Major congratulations to you on completing in 23 days!
    Love the drawing – I wish I could draw pics for my blog posts!
    Hope you’re able to wind down and enjoy the festive period 🙂

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  9. I can’t put what I’ve learned from writing down in a single comment… 🙂 One of the bigger lessons has been conceptual and stands apart from the notion that the first draft of anything is “complete” and from there it’s all “editing”. Actually, the writing process is integral into later drafts – and we shouldn’t think of it as “re-writing”, because it’s all part of reaching the end-point of completion (where the real editing then begins…). All the best for your novels!

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    • I don’t know how to explain it other than I fight laziness like anyone else. I focus on the goal and imagine attaining it. I break the work down in manageable pieces and make lists of things to do. The rest is history! Good luck!

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