This is my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I’d heard the fanfare over the years, seen the occasional posts, but I’d never pulled the trigger myself. This year I did. I TOLD people I was writing a draft in November. In one month. I prepared for it. I set up a schedule of how many words it would take each day to accomplish 50,000 in a month. I accounted for disruptive occasions (like Thanksgiving) when I knew I was less likely to get my 1,666.66 words per day done. If thousands and thousands are doing it, I can do it, too. Surely…
It’s addictive, NaNoWriMo. A writer’s drug. The fanfare, the constant encouragements, the advice whizzing around from winners of past years, those accomplished NaNoWriMo-ers. Every day, there are pearls of NaNoWriMo encouragement and advice to be found. I dive deep into the web for the oysters from which to pry them.
When I look up from all the excitement, November is almost over. And I have only 5,231 words to show for it. Hardly a NaNoWriMo pace.
My first thought is to blame the story. Beginnings are the foundation on which the book rests. The beginning is where everything must be set up. The characters, their backstories, motives, their internal conflicts and their outward contradictions. Real people have all these things. We develop them over a lifetime. Characters need a lifetime of history. Once I have that, these things must tie into the story. The main conflict must absolutely strike the character at his or her core.
Of course, every bit of that contradicts the NaNoWriMo goal of just getting it down. In whatever format you can. I’ve never done this before. Never dedicated a solid chunk of time to a book. I’ve always written books alongside day jobs and children. If I had a tattoo, it would read: Writus Interuptus. My office is supposed to be “off limits” when the door is closed. But I have children. A husband. Even a dog who hates to be left out. Family first. They don’t even knock and I stopped reminding them years ago, when they might have been trainable. It is much too late now.
This year, however, circumstances changed. I put out two books, which is a lot for me. Not because I was just motivated. Nope. It happened because I was offered a lovely spotlight on Barnes & Noble if I could deliver a book by October 1. That was in May. My two kids would be out of school in four weeks and out for the following fourteen. They are old enough to manage getting themselves dressed, fed and making plans, but they would be in need of rides here and there and to and fro. Golf lessons. Baseball practice. To the movies. The mall. And who was going to feed these children?
The first 8,000 words of that book took a solid month. Actually 35 days. During those, I worked every day but mostly on other things. I drove kids around. I attended baseball games and sat alongside golf lessons. I stared into space. I watched the rain. I did a lot more driving and I made a lot of notes in a red binder I carry in my car that my kids labeled, “Mom’s Car Brain” as it keeps me from forgetting every remotely inspirational thing I think of in the car. The story eked out of me, but not at the pace I needed. There were moments of panic, but largely, I just sat and stared, jotted down little ideas. And a miracle happened….
On day 36, the book was there. Not exactly cohesive, but fluid. From that day on, I wrote at least 1,000 words a day. Many days, I wrote two or three times that. I missed only 3 days between then and August 16 when I finished the book. And you know what? It’s the best book I’ve written. For the summer, I lived with Sex Crimes Inspector Jamie Vail and her 15 year-old son, Zephenaya as surely as if they were my house guests. And it shows. I know them. I understand them. “It’s your best book,” readers tell me. Okay. Nine books in and I’ve learned something. Writing every day really does make a difference.
So I choose to look at November’s NaNoWriMo experience in a new light. I’ve got more than 5,000 words. A few thousand more and it’ll happen. The book will appear. Or at least that’s what I chose to believe.
I may not be a NaNoWriMo superstar, but I do believe that getting the draft down in a short timeframe—however you can, in what ever way works—makes a book stronger. I’ve got Everything to Lose to prove it.
Everything to Lose:
When the daughter of San Francisco socialites Gavin and Sondra Borden is brutally assaulted, Jamie Vail makes it her mission to find the attacker. A seasoned Sex Crimes Inspector with the SFPD, work is what Jamie does best. She isn’t distracted by the fact that her adopted son and the victim go to the same school.
Jamie can almost set aside that the man caught on tape with the victim is a man she’s been wary of for years, her son’s biological father. At home, her son is performing poorly in school, becoming more reclusive, and nothing she does can draw him out. Every piece of evidence seems to bring her closer to home.
Desperate to be wrong, Jamie must find Charlotte’s attacker before her son lands behind bars, or worse…
Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for CHASING DARKNESS
Barry Award for COLD SILENCE
About Danielle Girard:
As one of four children, Danielle Girard grew up in a house where the person with the best story got heard, and it’s probably no surprise that fast-paced suspense stories have always been her favorite. Girard’s books have won the Barry Award and been selected for the RT Reviewers Choice Award. Two of her novels have been optioned for movies. Visit her website at www.daniellegirard.com.
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