Gearing up for NaNoWriMo

          The definition of “terror”.

Almost eleven years ago, I created an account on NaNoWriMo.

I can remember how excited I was when I found the website. If you’re not a writer and you haven’t heard of it, it stands for National Novel Writing Month and is, in my opinion, one of the best things to have come out of the internet.

In a nutshell, you sign up to write 50,000 words in the month of November. But it’s not just about the word count. NaNoWriMo asks that you create a fully realized story. One with a beginning, a middle and an end. If you treat it right, it’s basically one of the most grueling writing bootcamps out there. Not that it makes you into a good writer, per se, but it makes you produce. In the end, if you don’t write, it doesn’t matter how pretty your words are.

With all that said, I’m embarrassed that I’ve never “won”, despite a handful of attempts. That is, I’ve never written 50,000 words in the span of a month. I’m a slow writer, and even though I was always excited to participate in NaNoWriMo, I got discouraged when I didn’t like what I was writing. My lifetime NaNoWriMo word count is just over 15,000 (I’ve formally attempted it twice). My actual lifetime word count is way, way higher than that, but seeing that little number on the NaNoWriMo dashboard makes me forget that tiny detail. Instead, it makes me feel competitive. I want to crush that little number under the weight of thousands and thousands of words.

And so, because there’s no one I like competing with more than myself, I decided this will be the year. Since I’m no longer fourteen and am much better at pushing myself through a draft even when it’s a giant stinking pile of poo (see: The Lost Royals, draft 1), I’m going to go for the 50K. I’m taking an idea that I’ve already done a solid amount of pre-writing for, and it’s tentatively titled The Tower. It’s a story about a young woman who escapes a doomed fate as a sacrifice to a mysterious creature only to have it follow her into the streets of London and beyond. The time I’ll be spending on this means I’ll be putting my main project on hold for the month, but I think I need that. I’m at a point in the middle of my second draft of TLR that’s hard to wade through, and the solidity and encouragement that would come from finishing another manuscript is probably what the doctor would order if there was a doctor especially for writers (is that what shrinks are for?).

I’ll be updating my progress on my blog throughout the month. But first, I need to stock up on coffee.


Freedom! or, the benefits of doing something without understanding why


This last week has brought me three anniversaries.

The first was the one year anniversary of my move to Los Angeles.

The second was my one year anniversary at my job, which I started the day after my Honda Civic crawled down the highway (I’ll never say freeway) into what is a desert city but likes to try covering itself with lawns and shrubs anyway.

And the third anniversary? My birthday.

Needless to say, this was the perfect recipe for a week of reflecting on the state of things. I’ve gone through the tired but true revelations about how quickly time passes and how important it is to spend time with the people I love. And I’ve also thought about how important it is to keep your eyes open and let things happen without fighting it.

This last thought holds especially true for this past year. Sometimes, it seems like Los Angeles found me instead of the other way around. I remember being set on moving to New York City. Los Angeles hadn’t even crossed my mind. Then, I stumbled upon a New York Times article about how rent in LA was just the tiniest bit cheaper than in New York. I was intrigued, but I didn’t think much of it. But soon after that, my dad asked me if I’d ever considered living in LA, since I had an uncle out in Torrance but no family out east. And then I picked up a book by one of my favorite authors (Maggie Stiefvater), and it just happened to be set in LA. And then I got invited to visit the city by one of my closest friends from high school. My head was suddenly full of LA, LA, LA.

Five months later, I was living and working in the City of Angels. I can’t say there was ever a moment when I thought, “I belong here!” As I’ve told the people who’ve asked why I came out here, I just liked it. There’s no profound reason behind what I did.

Despite how simple I wanted it to be, making a move like this is a risk. Some things worked out (I tried online dating!) and some didn’t (roommate problems). I started acting again for the first time since high school, and I met a lot of new friends in some of the most random circumstances (e.g., commiserating over back problems at the chiropractor). I met some goals (finishing draft one of a book) and didn’t meet others (only halfway through the second draft). But on the night of my birthday, I watched the band Chvrches perform the album that was the soundtrack to my cross-country drive one year ago. In that moment, in a chill crowd of music-lovers, I was so happy to be here. Trusting my gut, no matter how unfocused it seemed, has left me with no regrets. And as you’re looking at a new year ahead, that’s the best feeling in the world.