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NaNoWriMo: Midway point!

Amy Leibowitz nanowrimo National Novel Writing Month writing writing advice writing encouragement

Happy Friday, and happy mid-National Novel Writing Month to those who are participating.

This is “over the hump” day, the halfway mark where, for many of us, things begin to flow. We’ve figured out who the Big Bad is, or we know what our hero has to do to finish strong. We’ve had an aha! moment. Words pour out of us like water, and we’re ready to go the distance.


Or maybe we’re ready to scrap the last 25k words because they sound like nonsense, endless babble that goes nowhere. We can’t see what lies ahead, and we feel the shame of having little to show for the previous two weeks. Maybe we haven’t even made it to 25k. Or to 1k.

Or maybe we’re somewhere in the middle between those, both excited for a fresh start today and weary from the miles behind us.

Wherever we are, the important thing isn’t that we have a perfect story, ready for market on December 1. Nor a story we can tweak and polish in December to send to press or a publisher on January 1. Heck, it’s not even that we be able to declare ourselves “winners” and claim that 50k badge in two weeks.

The important thing is that we sat down and put words on the page. Not all of us are going to be authors of The Next Big Novel. Our poetry and memoirs and well-researched non-fiction and short story collections and novels of every kind may never see anything beyond the secret files on our computers or the messy drawer where we store our handwritten journals.

But we did something. We wrote. Some of us for the first time since graduating high school. Some of us for the 10th NaNoWriMo in a row. Some of us with shelves of our published books behind us.

It takes courage to dismiss all the messages we take in about what it means to be a “real writer” and put ourselves out there. I just interviewed author, poet and activist Sossity Chiricuzio about her new memoir, and she had some wise words:

"Many people think you have to do all manner of professional and academic things to be a writer (because those myths keep the professional and academic money and prestige flowing in a circular motion) but writing is far more accessible then that. It can look like scribbled poems on the back of a bill envelope on the bus between shifts, or a daily practice, or oral history shared over board games and backyard fires that someone journals or otherwise records, or a log of email exchanges, or any number of ways that we use the words we have to note the passage of time and lessons and knowledge and emotion. Being published, reading your work out loud or sharing it with others, those are things you can do with your writing, but to be a writer simply requires that you write.”

Sure, doing NaNoWriMo is great. I love it! But even I, with 9 published novels and a handful of shorter works, have failed at it (multiple times, even). The first two novels I wrote have never gone anywhere. (They are TERRIBLE, by the way, and I hope I remember to delete those files before I die and my great-grandchildren find them.)

But it doesn’t take NaNoWriMo or anything else special for you to be a writer, a storyteller. Words are your playground, and you can do anything you like with them. Don’t let bad advice or snobby attitudes stop you. And don’t stand in your own way. Maybe explore a style or genre you haven’t before.

Oh, and if you really feel your first 25k are that bad? Well, then, spend the next 25k writing what feels honest and good to you. Be a rebel and take that time to figure out what clicks. I worked in a science-based field before becoming a writer, so I’m a big fan of research and experimentation.

Happy writing, and good luck for the second half!

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