Back in 2003, I was a busy English teacher who did a little writing on the side. That summer, I took a class with ASWC (the Alaska State Writing Consortium), and a colleague told me about NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. It sounded like it might be a fun challenge to write a novel in the month of November, but I didn’t know if I’d follow through—until I got my teaching schedule that fall.
I had five classes in grades 7-12, including three writing classes. I think my first words to my supervisor were, “You’re trying to kill me.” To teach a writing class properly, you need to have students do a lot of writing, and read all their writing in order to guide them to revision. It takes hours every week. Multiplied by three. But then I remembered NaNo.
To keep my sanity, NaNo became part of my curriculum. I announced to my students that they could participate in my usual writing prompts, or they could write their own book a la NaNoWriMo. And I would write a book, too. Every time we wrote in class, I wrote for my novel. During sharing time, I sometimes shared what I was writing. The book became part of our class conversations. Did it turn my pack of teenagers into novelists? Not really. But they saw another side of writing, and hopefully noticed how much fun I had with it, too.
It was fun for me. I had a good time creating the plot and characters. And with NaNo’s permission to “write crap” in the first draft, I didn’t worry too much about what I was producing. I just let the words flow. Luckily, my family supported me as I spent less time with them, quit doing housework, and gave them a lot of frozen pizza and Subway for dinner. It took most of that month, but by combining hours of class writing time, and evenings and weekends (when my lesson plans and grading were done), I made it. I got to 50,000 words by the end.
During that month, I had my first experience of characters running away with me. I was sitting on the couch, typing away, as Bob walked Kitty home from the USO dance. And I thought, “He’s going to propose.” And he did, right there in front of me! Boy, was I hooked. Once I had 50,000 words, I wanted to turn it into a real book, and started revising. That led me to the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference and AKRWA, the Alaska chapter of the Romance Writers of America. Before I knew it, I graduated to writing an actual novel, and then a few more, until I was published. And it all started with NaNo.
Now, NaNoWriMo has a bigger program, with resources and write-ins, and a Young Writers Program for writers 17 and under. You can work on your own or with the support of writers near you. You can learn more at http://nanowrimo.org.
In time to get people inspired for NaNo, or just to write on your own, YA author Jolene Perry (http://jolenebperry.com) and I are offering a pep talk at the Eagle River, AK Library on Oct. 28, 6:30-8 pm. “How to Write A Whole Novel: Tips and Ideas to Get the Job Done, Just in Time for NaNoWriMo. YA authors Lynn Lovegreen and Jolene Perry talk about what to do before you write, how to write a novel, and what to do when you’re stuck.” We hope to see you there if you’re in our area.
Go forth and write! You never know where it might lead you! 🙂