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NaNoWriMo: The last mile

Amy Leibowitz nanowrimo running writing writing encouragement

Technically, the last third of National Novel Writing Month doesn't start until Wednesday. But who's counting?

My son runs cross-country in the fall. (That's him in the picture above. He's a tall, skinny white boy wearing a purple and white school uniform, running across a stretch of grass, with cars and trees in the background.) For varsity and JV, this is a 3-mile run (5k), usually through a town park. The terrain can be anywhere from nearly flat to multiple steep hills, open fields to dense trees. Running doesn't stop just because of a little rain, so athletes can encounter puddles, mud, and slick grass, not to mention getting soaked through. The season is long enough that where we live, runners start off in nearly 90-degree weather and finish in early snowfall.

Writing 50k words in 30 days can feel this way. We may try to be prepared for any writing weather, via outlines or notes or research or character bios. But when it comes down to it, something unexpected can always get thrown in the mix.

Maybe you're a new parent, trying to write while sleep-deprived. Or maybe you're like me and your kids' school musical happens halfway through. It could be something with the story: getting stuck on a chapter or plot point, running out of steam, a character doing something you didn't count on, plot bunnies galore.

One of the amazing things that happens with cross-country is the way runners and spectators alike tend to focus on the positive. Just before the halfway point in the season, my son's school participates in one of the largest east coast invitational meets (that is, one anyone can sign up for).

I've attended this meet, and it is fantastic. It's an all-day event, with schools separated by division. What's so incredible about it is that people cheer for runners who aren't even from their town or related to them in any way. It's just one big celebration of the training these kids have done to reach that point.

Because this meet is so large, there are rules. Runners must complete the first two miles in sixteen minutes or less in order to run the third mile. My son says it's not too hard, if you train well, to make that goal. But the start of the third mile is the hardest. You know you're close to the end, so there's a sense of relief. But with all the unexpected things that can happen along the way, you're tired, maybe wet and muddy, and giving in seems like a good option.

We're now at the "third mile" for NaNoWriMo. Fortunately, it's not necessary to have written 33k words in order to be allowed to finish the month, but that is the approximate goal. If you're participating, how are you feeling? Pleased about your accomplishment so far? Tired and wishing you could give up?

The good news is, the end is near. In a few strides, you'll be able to see the finish line and can head for the chute. If you're unfamiliar with cross-country or other long-distance runs, this is the very last bit of the course. Runners push themselves there, often sprinting to the end, where they will receive their time score.

Don't give up. Keep pressing on, knowing there are so many people cheering you on to the finish. You've got this.

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