I finished NaNoWriMo by validating that my manuscript has more than 50,000 words.
So did thousands of others.
Now I can file it away – like two previous manuscripts – or I can edit this one, really edit it.
Writer Chuck Wendig sums it up in his own “now that it’s over” blog post:
“If you keep thinking about it even though you know you’re not supposed to? Then maybe you have something there.”
I’m still thinking about it.
I’ve been thinking about it since March; that’s when I participated in the Rising Writers Workshop in Manassas, Virginia. Several Woodbridge Senior High School students, including Rachuel Hanley, challenged me to be “fearless and raw” by writing a spoken word poem and then performing it.
I did. I wrote “Church Donuts,” a poem about binge eating disorder. In April I read it in front of an open mic crowd at Deja Brew Coffeehouse in Haymarket. It was exhilarating.
In August, at a Virginia Writers Club symposium in Charlottesville, Sara Robinson opened a panel discussion on the “modern state of poetry” by asking: “Where are all the activist poets, standing on street corners, shouting about…[change]?”
I shared about my “Church Donuts” poem, and speaking out about binge eating disorder. The reaction – laughter, then nods – told me I had connected with an audience again.
Later, in the hall, I was talking with Rene Ordoobadi, the VWC’s 2014 teen scholarship winner, when a woman interrupted us.
“You’re the one who wrote the church donuts poem. You need to do something with that,” she said. I committed right there to writing a book.
In September, while driving out to Kansas and back to Virginia on vacation, I filled a green notebook with random thoughts and impressions, the bones of what would become my manuscript. Even so, that notebook would have been swallowed up by life events, had I not kept it in my handbag. On that same trip, my husband accepted a job offer to North Carolina. Over the next nine weeks, our entire world was turned upside down as we prepared my home of three decades for sale, downsized after two grown children and prepared to move the rest of our belongings to another state. I could easily have pushed NaNoWriMo aside.
But instead, on November 1, I logged into the national website and started writing on a blank document. The notebook became a GPS to my manuscript, and I used the 30 days of pep talks, camaraderie and tracking stats to not only finish the first draft of the manuscript, but also to transition to a new life in a new house in a new state. I was no longer a freelance writer with clients and a business; I was an author. In the middle of all the chaos, I was able to knock out more than 50,000 words.
And like Chuck Wendig said, in oh so much more colorful language, now, on December 1, it’s up to me. The holidays present a whole new set of excuses not to face up to the hurdle of editing.
But I can’t stop thinking about “Church Donuts.”
I think I have something here.