Tag Archives: origins

into the woods


November of 2008 changed my life.

I appreciated National Novel Writing Month from afar for several years before I took the plunge. It’s a great idea, I thought, but I really don’t have time to write 50,000 words right now. Maybe next year. Those next years piled up, like the stacks of unfinished manuscripts, and then in the final days of that fateful October, I spontaneously signed up. I had never written more than 15,000 words on a project before, and I had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what I was going to write, but it felt urgently necessary to do it now.

Winning NaNoWriMo changed my life again. It wasn’t pretty. Neither was I, by the time Nov 30 rolled around, having been transformed to a sleep-deprived creature, eyes glazed, hunched over from hours at a desktop keyboard, dressed in a suspicious combination of mismatched clothing scrounged from the last of the clean laundry. My story, the second of my vague trilogy, was a disjointed, cliched mess. The plot was unrecognizable. A secondary character had hijacked the story and my main character was one-dimensional and boring. I swore I would never write trilogies/fantasy/novels again.

But I knew, as I typed the 50,000th word, that I was not the same writer that I had been when I so naively began on Nov 1. Okay, not even the same person.

I kind of loved the new writer-me.

That’s why I keep coming back to NaNo, year after year, even though I’m past the point where I need it to get a novel drafted. The pace is insane and the mental breakdowns are inevitable, but I relish the annual reminder of what I really am capable of when I get a little gritty and determined. I love the surprises that spring out of a speed-written draft; although the words inevitably get rewritten, most of the ideas born in November are worth hanging onto. Also, the community is great.

Camp NaNoWriMo, held in April and July, is a bit of a new thing for me. These are some of the busiest months in a riding instructor’s life, but the word count goal is flexible, so last year I gave it a try and wrote a combined 40k towards Dragon Novel. Apparently, I am motivated by bar graphs.

So it’s back into the drafting woods I go, armed with Plot Hole Repellant and ready to roast some excuses over the fire. I’m using Camp NaNo’s “All projects welcome” policy to make some progress on a work-related writing project… but I have a secondary goal of getting a finished draft of my MG book done, and sketching a few scenes for a strange new YA project that’s been teasing at my brain. Now if only I could figure out how to actually do all of this in a tent!

make a wish: an origin story

Once upon a time, a little girl scrunched up her eyes, blew out all six candles on her birthday cake, and fervently wished that she would grow up to be a Real Author.

Image courtesy of The Food Network

(It was a strawberry cake. The little girl had not yet developed her loyalty to all things chocolate.)

Over the next six years, the little girl continued to work towards this goal, filling blank book after blank book with stories about horses. Talking horses, wild horses, crime-solving horses, dreamy show-jumping horses with stars in their eyes – you name it, they had a five-book series. Every once in a while, the humans got their own stories, too, mostly girls equally fierce with a sword and a pen. (Who also rode horses. Naturally.)

When she was twelve, she dreamed about the sisters, and the silvery horse running on the shore. It was the sort of strange dream that haunts you in the daylight, hours and days after waking, and so the girl did what all Real Authors surely do with strange dreams, and put it into a story.

When she was sixteen, a part-time resident of Middle-Earth dissatisfied with her own fiction and craving myth and magic, a wise person told her: “The book you want to read is really the book you want to write.” She never forgot those words. They haunted her like the horse still did.

Twelve more years passed, and the girl wrote, and wrote, and wrote. Remembered the sisters and the ghostly horse, who taught her how to craft a tale and build a world. Remembered again and again how writing made her whole. Every NaNoWriMo novel and every prompt scribbled at writing group brought her closer and closer to the truth: a Real Author is someone who is haunted by stories, and real magic is believing in the stories long enough to tell them to someone else.

And now, with lot more candles on her birthday cake but query letter and synopsis in hand, the next chapter of the Real Author’s adventure begins!