NaNoWriMo, Week 1

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of National Novel-Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). For those who are unfamiliar, this is a month-long event that takes place every November, in which participants challenge themselves (and each other) to write a full-length novel (50,000 words, approximately the length of The Great Gatsby) in thirty days. It’s an immensely popular event, drawing thousands of writers, both aspiring and professional. Many popular novels started life as a NaNo project. (Of course, they all needed editing after the initial November draft. I’ve read that literary agents tend to trash all novel queries they receive on December 1, because so many people send them off as soon as they’ve finished the first draft challenge.)

I’ve never done it before, partly because I’m usually in the middle of a project in November, and also because I don’t like to challenge myself to something if I’m not sure I can follow through. But this year is different…

Why I’m Doing It Now

I just turned in my revisions on my Triangle Fire novel, and am not quite ready to pick up on the second draft of Blizzard, so I have no big project in progress. I’m also more confident that I can actually get to 50K in a month after my success last summer with increasing my writing productivity (read the full post here).

The twist, of course, is that my daughter was born 10 days before the start of NaNoWriMo. I’m home, but I’m home with a newborn. A newborn with an unpredictable schedule, and one that wakes me up at night. And let’s not forget that I needed to have surgery to remove said newborn, so I’m still recovering from that.

But I’m doing NaNoWriMo anyway. Because I like a challenge. At the end of the month, I’m going to feel so proud for having gotten it done during extraordinary circumstances.

The Project

I’ve been wanting to work on this young adult novel for a long time. It centers around an activity that I love and have a lot of knowledge about. I’m so excited about writing it- it feels like pure fun to me! Here’s the synopsis I wrote for my NaNoWriMo profile:

Cassandra Guckian, an oboe prodigy, moves to a new school district that has a national-class marching band program. She’s never marched, but the band director pressures her to join (on clarinet, not oboe, an instrument she’s also proficient on). At first, Cassie feels superior to her bandmates due to her musical skills, but quickly realizes that marching band is only partly about the music. It’s footwork, drill, timing and teamwork, and she has little experience with those things. Moreover, her bandmates resent her intrusion into their tight group, and few make an effort to talk to her or help her learn. Cassie wants to quit, but her mother is so happy to be part of the “band parent” community that she resigns herself to sticking it out for the season. Gradually, Cassie’s bandmates come to realize that she has musical skills that can be beneficial to the team, and she learns how to ask for help and make friends. By the end of the season, she’s incorporated herself into the “we” of the marching band team, and her mother has found new happiness as part of the community. 

It’s just a starting point, and will likely change quite a bit as I write the novel. I’m operating with a “plantser” method: I’m planning as I go, but willing to change things as the writing reveals new characters or plot points.

Week 1 Progress (11/1 to 11/7):

Word Count: 13,834

Chapters Written: 6 + a prologue

Percentage Complete: Approx. 28%

Unusual Supplies Needed: Pillows, to prop up the baby’s head so that she can sit on my lap while I type and she naps. (She sleeps better and longer when I’m holding her.)

Funniest Moment: My 4-year-old asked me if he could help, and I told him he could name a new character who plays the trumpet. He thought for a minute, grinned, and said, “Donald Trump!” I really want to believe he came up with that because “Trump” sounds like ‘Trumpet” and not because he thinks Donald Trump is a good role model for a character. (Needless to say, I did not take his suggestion.)

Anyone else doing NaNoWriMo? How’s it going so far?

2 Responses to “NaNoWriMo, Week 1”

  1. Sara L. says:

    That’s really good progress so far, Leanne! Keep up the good work, and continue taking care of yourself and the kiddos. 🙂 And I like the sounds of your story from the blurb, and can see how your experience with music is feeding it.

  2. I admire anyone who can do NaNoWriMo with a newborn on her lap! Sounds like you’ve got a good start on it. Hope it continues to go well.


  1. Habits, Routine, Process, Wellness:: Leanne Sowul, Writer - […] NaNoWriMo last year, starting it just 9 days after giving birth to my daughter! (Read that story here, here,…

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