So NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Last year I used it to actually start getting down some writing for my book for the first time, with the aim of meeting the 50,000 word challenge and most importantly, dare to say to myself and the world that I was writing a book! The fact that I wasn’t sure if my book would in fact be a novel (as opposed to some kind of memoir/historical fiction/non-fiction hybrid thingy) seemed immaterial…the idea was simply to get some writing done. I took part in a couple of “write-ins” at my local library, which is a kind of weird experience where a bunch of writers get together, sit in a room and quietly go about typing or writing without chatting. I loved it…I was a writer writing and being writerly with other writers! I came just shy of 50,000 words by the end of the month, and since then added another 25,000. Which goes to show you that having a target and a group doing it with you really does help get things done.

This year’s challenge in the month of November has come at a good time for me. After a few months over summer grappling with a fairly serious health issue I wasn’t quite ready to get back into the full swing of my copyediting work. So, after negotiating “sugar daddy” status for my husband, I decided to focus solely on my book for the entire month of November.

We’re over halfway through and already I have gained so much. First of all, on their website NaNoWriMo  I had to write a synopsis of my book. Now, I reckon this is about the hardest part of the whole thing…and good practice for when I have to put it on the back of the book cover and on bookseller’s websites. What I came up with is now the content for my webpage Book and I’m sure it will change many times before publication day (which is barely a flicker of my imagination at this stage as I really am still in the midst of the first “dirty draft”). The process though, has helped me see more clearly what my book is about.

Secondly, I went to an event held at the local library where four recently published authors spoke of their route to publishing. It was well attended and I got a gem of knowledge from each of the authors. Synchronistically, two of the authors had written historical fiction, and one had even written specifically about her own family. Gold! One of those authors has published many books actually, Lucia St Clair Robson, and my favorite thing she told us was that when you’re trying to figure out what in her books is fiction and what is fact, then invariably the most outlandish, unlikely things were the facts and the more mundane details were the fiction! I am already finding this in writing my story…the truth really is stranger than fiction. And the fiction is necessary to bind it all together.

The other author, Jennifer Bort Yacovissi, was kind to chat with me afterwards and it was wonderful to compare notes on such things as privacy and using real names. I love that she did keep her family’s actual names and appreciated good tips about how to keep family informed along the journey of the writing.

Thirdly, of course, is the actual writing I’m doing. Every. Day. I free write (a writing mentor many moons ago in Australia said she wrote all her first drafts this way). What that means is I just grab on an idea that I have about a particular episode of the story, set a timer for say 20 minutes, and off I go! The trick is to not stop, not edit, not ponder, just go until the time goes off. Keyboard or pen, whatever works. It’s amazing what comes out! Generally, I might end up with a gem of a sentence or the thrust of a theme or outline of the scene has come to light. I might end up with a lot of questions to then research further, but that’s progress forward too. It does mean that I tend to have written some scenes a few times over, but I figure that will all come together further along in the process.

I recommend anyone writing a book, or thinking about writing a book, to sign up to this next year at NaNoWriMo. It’s a great way to get things moving!

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