We Have a Writer: NaNoWriMo

Disclaimer I:  I love and cherish both my sons beyond measure.  They’re entitled to their own interests and preferences, and I respect their choices.  

Disclaimer II: But to have one, for at least a bit, share a passion with me is pure joy.

I’m obscenely delighted. It seems, by nature, nurture, or a freak roll of the dice, that I’m raising a writer. Up until the last six months,  I’ve noticed their interests and mine fail to converge, except when cheesecake is involved.  Over the years, they’ve embraced everything I know little about: astronomy, volcanoes, meteorology, chemistry (okay, I can manage that one, but it’s far from a passion), Pokemon, Minecraft, geography and history (although I learned to love both), and Magic the Gathering.  Both entered this world with pencil allergies, or at least strong aversions to writing.   Where were the readers, biologists, and writers?   The spiritual seekers and philosophers?  Somewhere between NOVA and Montessori, something had gone wrong. (See Disclaimer I)

When my younger embraced literature and grammar last fall a saw a glimmer of hope.  Our conversations turned closer to my domain, revolving around plot lines, protagonists, foreshadowing; verbal phrases, adverbial prepositional phrases, and subject/verb agreement.  But writing?  No way.  He hated writing, he said.  No doubt, some of his writing wrath came from his brother, who due to a good deal of dysgraphia, took quite awhile to put his thoughts into pixels, if not onto paper.  Writing by hand is near impossible for my older, but he can do a fine job on the computer when he puts his mind to it.  But he doesn’t care to write.

Sometime in the last six months, my younger decided he wanted to write.  Like his brother, he preferred to type, although his hands will allow him to write by hand quite clearly and relatively quickly.  Typing, after all, allows one to change a text more easily, thus easing the fears of “getting it wrong” that plague my younger son.  Fine by me.  Ideas in print:  that’s the point.

But I was still surprised when this Wednesday, November 2, my younger started work on his short story assignment.  He’d put several days into prewriting, identifying setting and characters, outlining a plot line, and considering a resolution and ending.  I’d yet been able to sell either child on more than a rudimentary mind map or outline, so this flurry of energy towards this small assignment drew my attention.  A half hour into writing, he mentioned that he was almost done with the prologue.

The prologue.  Short stories don’t tend to have prologues.  I asked him offhandedly if he was writing a short story or a novel.  A novel, was his reply.  I reminded him it was NaNoWriMo season and asked if he wanted to see if there was still time to register.  He paused only briefly and affirmed he would.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) takes place each November.  It’s all about output: silencing the inner critic and writing like mad.  Winning the adult version requires 50,000 words written (verified by their word counter).  And that’s all that winning is:  completing that writing goal.  For kids, there is a junior version: NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program.  Kids can make their own word goals and even change them up until November 24.  My son initially made 15,000 words his goal, but after day one, he scaled that back to 10,000.  Had we been more proactive, NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program website has a host of resources for planning one’s novel, written for three levels:  Elementary, Middle School, and High School learners.  So far, my younger’s doing well with a Story Map printed from a Language Arts website.  Planning with one of their workbooks would have been nice, but last-minute joiners can’t be choosers.

As of today, November 4, he’s 920 words in, although he notes he had many more before he thought his characters would likely use contractions in their speech rather than more formal language.  He’s had my promise that NaNoWriMo is Job 1 for writing this month — no other writing assignments will be forthcoming until his book is put to rest.  In short, he’s writing about two groups of cats who end up at war over a hotel one group runs.  After several months of reading all the Warriors books many, many times and recent reading of Redwall, the subject matter does not surprise me.  His literature course, Lightening Literature 7, via Online G3, has provided plenty of discussion about literature, largely from the reading end, although he’s picked up several tips he’s integrating in this current project.

It is, however, only November 4.  His interest may wain; his word count projection may decrease.  Fine.  For now, he’s focused and happy.  That beats distracted and miserable, and I’ve had writers like that, even in the past few weeks.  It is experience combined with self-discipline, and anything else gained is a bonus.  I’ve not gained permission for a public preview, although he states his short story on his blog, Cinder and the Rats, gives a bit of back story to his current work.  He plans to post the complete novel there, after completion and editing.  Hurrah for planning.

Oddly, as he’s recently embraced the craft I’ve enjoyed for years, I’ve been struck by writer’s block, or, more likely a bothersome inner critic.  I’m trying to take a lesson from my younger son, writing every day, without editing, but just letting the words flow.  It’s hard, and I’m terribly impressed that he’s giving it a try.  I’m not a fiction writer, but I’m thinking I could try my own month.  National Essay Writer’s Month?  National Memoir Writer’s Month?  National Blogger’s Month?  Hmm.  Whatever I call it, it’s time to write.

(Part II recounts the editing process the book, while Part III and III.V discuss the self-publishing process.)


2 thoughts on “We Have a Writer: NaNoWriMo

  1. My 12yo is on her 3rd year of Nanowrimo — I think it is a great motivator, and I love that every year more of her friends are doing it. This year her goal is 30K! I really think all that volume and the daily practice has to be good for developing writing skills, regardless of the immediate end product on Nov. 30.

    Personally I tell my DD to plan around Thanksgiving, but we’ll see how things are going this year.

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