In 2007, I did NaNoWriMo for the first time. I sent out the e-mail the organizers suggest, warning friends and family of what you are about to attempt and asking them for encouragement and accountability. My sister Aimee got that e-mail and was my biggest cheerleader that year.
We wrote together as kids. It came naturally to us both to tell stories together and to write them down. I wrote about this experience going into NaNoWriMo 2009, never realizing how much it had formed me until the story flowed out of me.
Aimee attempted NaNoWriMo alongside me in 2008, but we both failed to write the full 50,000 words. However, we have now supported each other to TWO NaNoWriMo wins in 2009 and 2010. I’ve learned more from Aimee’s wins than I have from my own (and I learn a lot from my own). She gets behind every year and only her determination to keep going brings her across the finish line.
And we’re hoping to win again in 2011, but it’s a bit different this year. Because now we’re writing together again. We’ve been talking about a story for a few months and at 12:01 on November 1st, we began writing.
Our first word counts were modest, under 1,000 each. But we wrote hundreds of words in a half hour. We began construction on a world and a few people who hadn’t existed were born.
Despite the enormous hurdles that always come with this wicked and crazy challenge, I feel more excited than ever because I am writing again with my original collaborator. It makes me feel like a kid again and that all things are possible, if we only just get started.
As I sit here trying to write about NaNoWriMo (instead of writing for it), my son is lying next to me hot with fever, coughing intermittently, and breathing with difficulty. This is my fourth NaNoWriMo beginning, and the fourth time my son has decided to be ill on Nov. 1. Already wholly unprepared for it to be November again, I feel almost defeated before I’ve begun (okay, shortly after I’ve begun). Almost. Because this year, I agreed to partner with my sister. Write a novel together. Just like when we wrote stories on notebook paper and No. 2 pencils. When Emilie used an eraser. Gasp. I was excited about it even. Until about a week ago. Sure, let me add one more deadline in the ocean of deadlines that is my life. Insecurity. Doubt. Panic. I haven’t prepared. I didn’t know it was November already. I’m not a writer anymore. I spend my days reading manuscripts, not writing them. It’s only Nov. 1, and I’m already exhausted. At least my son is finally sleeping.
Where was I? Oh, writing. I’ve thought about what the past NaNoWriMos have done for me and how Emilie has encouraged me, challenged me, inspired me, and kicked my butt to keep me writing. But as I write, what really matters to me this year isn’t any of those things (even though I am grateful every day for those same things—they’ve changed my future). When I think of this year’s novel—our novel—I see two little girls with No. 2 pencils. Two little girls in love with a good story. Who decided that they had their own stories to tell. I’m honored to be here with you again, Emie. But let me warn you, I’ve decided I won’t be writing this November. Thanks yet again for the reminder that it’s so much simpler. What is better than a good story?
Break out the pencils. I’m ready to tell a story.