Here it is, the prize for setting 50,000 (well, 50,101 to be exact) words on the page in the last 24 days. The final 2,301 odd words were uploaded just minutes ago, making me officially a “novelist.”
Lots of interesting lessons learned from this experience. One was, of course, that I actually had the persistence to finish this, which is a really big revelation for me. I’ve started a number of projects during the course of my half century on the planet, and many of them have gone down in ignominous flames.
Another was that if you come to the page, the words write themselves. Every book I’ve ever read on the craft of writing has said this, and it’s absolutely true. Most recently I’ve been reading Elizabeth George’s book Write Away, where she says that “So much of writing is showing up…of being at the computer every working day, of not waiting for inspiration to come, because it’s not necessarily going to come in the way one might expect it. So much of inspiration rises from the act of writing in a stream of consciousness manner…which seems to get me in touch with a well of creativity that I’m not able to tap into in my everyday life.” In most of my experiece completing NaNoWriMo, writing was like turning on a faucet. Once I sat in front of the keyboard and started to type, the words kept coming, sometimes faster than my fingers could keep up. I’m not saying that all the words were necessarily good -but they’re on the page, and they’re a start.
The most surprising thing was how much I came to care about my characters. When I knew the death of my narrator was imminent, I found the writing really stalled out for the first time. I finally realized that I was putting off getting to that particular portion of the story. Tonight, when I typed the last scene, I was slightly teary eyed because my relationship with these people had ended. It was like saying goodbye to old friends.
As I was writing the last third of the novel, I felt my writing ability move into another level, like it finally “clicked in.” It was like the moment when a really difficult piece of music begins to flow perfectly. That was perhaps the most exciting lesson of all – that practicing writing works like practicing the piano. The more you do it, the better you become. And regular practice is also the key. As George wrote, I learned to “show up at the computer” every day about the same time and write my 2000 words. To help me maintain this habit, I’m thinking about starting another blog, just for practice writing, where I can review the books I’m reading on the craft of writing, and participate in the writing exercises they offer.
Although I technically wrote “the end” on this particular story, I think finishing this novel might have been just the beginning of a new dimension to this hobby of mine. I’ve never thought I had any affinity or interest in writing fiction. I’ve never thought I had it in me to complete a lengthy piece of writing. Now, I know differently. A very interesting lesson…
Postscript: A major impetus in completing the novel was being part of a group effort – the NaNoWriMo project in general, all the encouragers and friends in the blogsphere, but particularly my “writing buddies” (Star, BB, Tammy, and Greenish Lady) whose progress on their own novels encouraged me to continue. Working with a group to create something wonderful is one of the things I’ve always loved about my musical activities. I had no idea that the same concept could be so effective in the world of writing!