As I noted in my ZX81 update, April was a different month for me. For some time, dating back to my time in college, I've wanted to write a book. About the most I'd ever done was create an outline and write a couple of scenes. I never really progressed beyond that, but there was always that nagging wish to do more. In an attempt to keep that 20+ year want current, I often read writing articles or follow the occasional writers blog. As I stumbled around I ran across National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for short. For those not familiar with it, the site basically offers you a challenge to write a 50,000 words in 30 days. Complete the challenge and you win. It is really a way to force yourself to write on a tight deadline. That sounded great, but NaNoWriMo is held each November and I had missed last year's start. I held off for a bit, then decided I'd sign up in the hopes of trying it out this November.
Then came a surprise. I received an email telling me about an April writing event called Camp NaNoWriMo, something I didn't have any clue about. I'd actually started to outline a book in January, some pre-work for the eventual November event. Here I was in March facing an opportunity to complete a challenge now in April. Pushing aside my normal tendency to procrastinate, I decided to jump at the chance. What a ride!
Here I am 30 days and 52,000 words later. I have a good part of my first Novel complete. It's still the 1st draft and I have another 10-20 thousand words to go to finish it, but it sure feels good having gotten this far. If you check out my stats, you'll find it wasn't easy. I started off okay, but fell behind during the first week, being over 10K behind by the 10th day. I had a hard time writing, and found it easy to find excuses to avoid. Around the 11th day, I dug in, but that hole would sit with me until day 23 when I finally caught back up to my average. I actually put some marathon writing sessions at the end of the challenge, finishing on day 25. I submitted by winning count that day, and then slacked off in celebration.
Let me say, it was a great experience. It forced me to write. I had to think of how to layout a book, develop and manage characters, build and follow a plot, and so on. As you can see from my statistics, it wasn't all roses. There were times where writing was a chore or I just couldn't put much down on paper. But once I got into it, the words flowed and I really enjoyed the act of getting my story out. In the end, it was all good fun.
So am I an author? Let me say that I'm not there yet. As I noted earlier, I still have work to do to finish my story and 50,000 words isn't a very long novel. Camp starts again in July, they run it twice a year, so perhaps I'll use that time to work on my 2nd draft. But I'm finding it hard to get back to my story now that the challenge is over. I guess a deadline really does help. In any case, I won't consider myself done until I've edited it and published it out for the world to critique. In any case, it is the process that matters for me, whether the book is good or bad doesn't matter at this point. Although my daughter is liking it thus far.
Would I recommend this experience to others? If you are an aspiring writer and you're having a tough time getting into it, I whole heartily think you should. Whether you give the official NaMoWriMo in November a try or one the two Camps in April and July, it is well worth it. The worst that can come of the attempt is that you don't get through your goal and you'll know if this writing thing is for you. To put it in perspective, of the 12 participants in my Camp NaNoWriMo cabin, only two of us finished our goals. That means 83% of my fellow campers didn't hit their goals, and most of those ended up with 0 words written. No judgement on them. They at least joined and gave it a shot. If you do hit your goal, well done! Relish the joy of completing something.
As for what's next, I'm sitting in May with a lot of good memories and lessons learned. I'm setting a new goal to complete my first draft by the end of the month. I'm going to have my family read it and give me some honest feedback. Then I'm going to sit on it. Maybe a month or two, maybe longer. But I'm not giving up. I've scratched the writing itch and I can't stop now until I'm done.