It’s November. Where is Carole-Jean? What is her latest caper? NaNoWriMo has her cloistered in her walk-in closet. The only ones who see her are Frank (the elder to whom she gives insulin shots) and the sheepdogs she walks at four in the afternoon.
NaNo – who? Yeah, I didn’t know either until I attended the annual Writer’s Digest Conference in Pasadena a couple of weeks ago; NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth. I had booked the conference months before on one of my many resolves to finish the books I had started. I thought paying money to go to the conference would commit me. Well, it did. So much so that I accepted the writing challenge I heard about on the last day of the conference: write a novel of 50,000 words in November. That’s right. Start writing on November 1 and finish on November 30.
I went to the sign-up page and plunged right in. I’m what’s known in the industry as a “pantser.” I write, and pretty much do everything else, by the seat of my pants. I’m thrilled to find a whole tribe of pantsers. The other category is “plotter.” These people outline their work and write biographies on their characters before they sit down to write. They even know the ending to the story before they start! I admire that. Wish I were more like that. But, I’m not. One thing I heard over and over again at the four-day conference was to do what works for you.
Some people have a writing spot – like me in my closet or Stephen King in his laundry room. Did I just use my name in the same sentence as the great master himself? Yes, I did. When one of the instructors at the seminar asked who had read Stephen King’s “On Writing” every hand in the room went up. I have read it four times. Well, guess what? There are other, differing points of view.
One of my favorite speakers at the event, James Scott Bell, a New York Times best-selling author, said, “Your head is your office. You can write anywhere.” Maybe after November I will come out of the closet, but not before I have 50,000 words.
We are halfway through November and I am more than halfway there. But, Thanksgiving is coming. I know me. PARTY! Then, hit it hard after to make up for it. Work hard, play hard.
I was delighted to meet another best-selling author, Rachael Herron. She spoke about “Plotting for Pantsers.” There’s hope for me, yet! Not only that, Rachael gave us her email address and invited us to ask questions about writing. I didn’t even know which genre I was writing. The book I wrote about flying in the 70s, “Flying High with Carole Jean,” was a memoir. Except, I made some of the stuff up and admitted to that up front in the prologue. Was it memoir if I ficitonalized some of it? I was so confused, I asked Rachael what genre “Princess Bride” was. She answered romance/fantasy. I thought about the story I’m writing for NaNo and it turns out I’m writing romance! Who knew? Me? Writing romance? Ha!
I’m now more than halfway through and more than half a story yet to be told. I have no doubt I will finish on time. Will it be any good? It doesn’t matter because the next phase of the challenge is called revision. I’m told that’s where the real work begins. I’m exhausted and the real work hasn’t even begun. And now I find out I’m a romance writer. At Rachael’s suggestion, I am joining RWA (Romance Writers of America) San Francisco chapter. I can hardly wait to join this group of smart, enthusiastic women, accomplished women. They have already sparked me to life and I am writing with abandon.
When I reach my goal of 50,000, I will don the red stilettos and do the Happy Dance! Meanwhile, you won’t hear from me for a while.