In November, hundreds of thousands of writers from all over the world commit to the craziness of writing a novel in a month. They do it voluntarily, just for fun – but what does it feel like? To find that out, we’re following some of them on their path of surviving NaNoWriMo.
Part 3: Albeit there is still a lot lying ahead of our Wrimos, they actually survived the first day of the challenge – and told us what happened.
“I started the first day of NaNoWriMo by writing 300+ words before I even got out of bed. I keep my iPad mini + bluetooth keyboard case on the nightstand next to my bed, which let me kickstart my writing day. The rest of the day was busy, so I wrote in fits and spurts, squeezing in short writing sessions whenever I could. I hit my word count goal, but did struggle a bit with my inner editor – he kept showing up, making me rework some writing, which slowed me down. I will have to do a better job of keeping him in his cave from now on. At least until December.”
Peter de Tagyos has always loved to read, and has successfully passed his love of books on to his two children. He earns a living by developing iOS apps, but dreams of publishing a novel.
“My first day happened in two parts. On October 31st I ended up staying up late, so I decided to get a head-start. At midnight, I typed # Chapter 1 into a new Ulysses sheet and I was off! I was planning to type about 500 words, but I ended up with over a thousand before going to bed. I woke up on Sunday and got back to writing. It was wonderful to watch my word count increase (I use Ulysses Goals to track my Chapters group). Finally I had to stop — my sons were taking me to dinner for my birthday, but I still got over 4500 words on my first day. Then I ate garlic fries. Those may not have had a lot to do with NaNoWriMo, but they’re quite good, too.”
His mother wanted Mel Walker to become a marine biologist, but he hopes to have kept her happy even if he became a programmer, working on land. Melvin has been doing NaNo since 2005 (albeit his first novel is, in his opinion, best forgotten).
“It was a real challenge, to be honest. I managed to make my goal early in the day with the help of a ton of coffee. Coffee is my writing partner. We’re a good team. I’m an ‘edit as I go’ writer and resisting the urge to rewrite and just keep going is a huge adjustment. I agonize over word usage and sentence structure and that, of course, makes me a slow writer. With that said, the benefit of NaNoWriMo is not only getting a draft out in a month, but it is teaching me to relax a little and have more fun writing. Well, as relaxed as I can be while full of coffee.”
Brian Henry Gray has been writing short stories since he was in grade school and has had several published over the years. He is originally from the northeastern United States, but currently resides in the Dallas, Texas area.
“My first day was great — 2680 words already! I started the novel at one of my region’s write-ins in a lovely café. Enjoying a warm cup of Genmaicha tea, I wrote my first sentence and I felt excitement and promise. With my words, a whole new story begins that has never existed before. Writing is truly a magical act. There is also some fear and doubt, but that’s what gives the process substance, and makes achieving the goal so wonderful. I honestly can’t wait to see where the story takes my characters. There is so much to explore in any story — I’m confident it will be a great journey!”
Martin Eisenloeffel is a writer by profession, albeit one of software manuals. In his spare time, he writes for pleasure, and if it’s not November, he also reads, takes pictures and occasionally creates some music.
“My first day of NaNoWriMo didn’t go as planned this year. I spent the day, and the previous, in bed sick. I honestly didn’t even get to write on November 1. However, I made up for that the next day. My wife and I found a coffee shop that we had never been to before and sat down to write. I spent the first little while watching people as they walked down the street — the coffee shop sits on a corner and two of its four walls are almost entirely glass. I drew inspiration from these passerbyers. From things like the way they styled their hair, to the minute detail of the some beads hanging from a keychain on someone’s backpack. Although not a typical writing session, it was refreshing.”
Mike Ackerman is based in Portland and married to his high school sweetheart, with two dogs – a French bulldog and a chiweenie they recently rescued. He holds a bachelor’s degree in animation and a master’s degree in journalism.
“The first day of NaNoWriMo surprised me – I had thought it would start Monday. I scrambled to find the time to write on Sunday and finally started in the late afternoon. I began with a scene I had been replaying in my head for a long time to ease myself into the writing process and I was relieved when my characters cooperated and allowed me to move through the story at a quick pace. In the morning, I re-read last night’s writing on my iPad while commuting and added a few notes to prepare myself for tonight’s word sprints. I can’t wait to get home and play with my characters again.”
Creativity is Julia Altermann’s favorite pastime, no matter if it is photography or all kinds of handicrafts. She first participated in NaNoWriMo in 2008 and managed to achieve the 50.000 words goal in the first instance.
“To minimize distractions, I waited until early evening to get started. Knowing there is grocery shopping waiting isn’t conducive to getting writing done. After deciding on a target of 2000 words, the sheet goal was set, headphones were donned, and I started putting words to screen, keeping half an eye on the little progress circle in the upper right. It just so happened that I came to a natural stopping point at the 2000 word mark. I use pelican for my static web page generator, so I exported the sheet to a Markdown file, and after a few header additions, the night’s effort was posted to my website. I then updated my NaNoWriMo word count, and considered the first night a success.”
Writing challenges keep Sean Johnson motivated: He participated in the New Orleans Writing Marathon in July, and will elaborate the ideas generated there for NaNoWriMo.