NaNoWriMo or something else this year?


It’s November 1, Day of the Dead, and the day thousands of people begin the annual one month frenzy of novel writing.  Each year I sign up, and only once have I actually completed the 50,000 words required to be a “winner.”  It’s funny, I love to write and am pretty prolific at it when I have something to say.  Yet when November first arrives, any idea of a story that I thought I had just seems to dry up.  I create characters who are interesting and have good backstories. My settings are appealing and vivid, but the story seems to evade me every time.  

This morning I got a Pep Talk in the mail from James Patterson, who wrote about having made an outline prior to taking on the novel-in-a-month project. He said it’s okay if you haven’t made one, although it’s better if you have one. He said “on the count of three, tell me the story that unfolds in your novel.  All the way to the last chapter. Now write that down.  There’s your outline. Easy, right?” And that little bit of encouragement is what has taken me down.  I have no story.  Just the stuff that surrounds a story. 

This year my idea is based on Wallace Stevens’ poem, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.”  I love that poem mostly because it’s kind of a list poem, which seems orderly to me, and because I don’t get it.  Even after reading it a hundred times and teaching it to my high school class a few years ago, when the kids wrote their own “Thirteen Ways of Looking at___” poems, I still don’t get it.  And I love it for that reason.  I could read literary analysis of it, and see what someone else thinks it’s about, but I’d rather not.  My granddaughter who is wizardly smart had a quick and to-the-point analysis of it after reading it once.  And her idea makes complete sense.  But I am not sure, and I am okay with not quite getting it.   

But back to NaNoWriMo.  My “30 Ways of Looking at November” sounds like a memoir or a list of completely disjointed stories, with no big idea or storyline holding them together. I think a novel ought to be at least marginally gettable. I sat down this morning at a (very crowded) cafe thinking I’d get started and I balked. Why did that Thirty Days thing sound like a good idea?  Maybe I should throw it in before I start.  The towel that is.  (That’s an idiom.  Throw in the towel.)  At first I liked the idea of crowd writing, but it has never really panned out for me. Like it or not, writing is something we must do alone, in our time.  And I’m pretty sure this isn’t my time.  Pretty sure, but not completely…

Maybe rather than even starting NaNoWriMo, I should create my own Maker Month. Chico Lynn Maker Month. ChiLyMaMo. I can crochet a cap for my new baby granddaughter, finish a scarf for her daddy, sew some stuff like a quilt, make a bag or two, take and print and frame some photos, (begin to) quilt the quilt I started thirteen years ago for the high schooler who analyzes poetry with such aplomb.  Maybe I’ll bake something or make some Kahlua or something in the kitchen.  I think I’ll draw the line at making fruitcake, but other than that, there is no end to the things I can create this month (well, of course there is, but that’s a figure of speech), and no anxiety about it either (well, almost none).  Either way crafting is required – when we write we craft with words, choosing the right ones, and eliminating the extras.  When we make things we craft with materials like fabric and tile, a camera or yarn, and we are challenged to roll with the mistakes as the project takes on its own life. This maker month thing is a win-win, I’d say. Plus the name sounds so cool.  ChiLyMaMo. It just rolls off the tongue.  And I don’t have to scrape my brain for a story to write.   Hm…

Anyone want to join me in this month of making things?  We could change the title to include you too if it grows beyond just me. I’d love that, changing the name because you are part of the deal.  Just say so and we’ll be off and making.  Otherwise I’ll go it alone and just tell you about it.  

Did I just talk myself out of NaNoWriMo? Maybe…


6 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo or something else this year?

  1. dkzody says:

    i’m making fruitcake this month. Started the process yesterday with soaking the fruit and nuts in brandy. I’m also going to try to do a photo-a-day challenge. Hah, That’s one I’ve never been able to finish. As for that nanomo writing thing-never. I cannot write under that kind of pressure.

  2. jgendar says:

    It’s JePaintBroom (Jeannine Paints the Bathroom) month around here. But of course I am making things too and am happy to be the Martinez auxiliary. All your possibilities sounds wonderful, and if you ever get to the fruitcake think of me. BUT let me say this about your novel. A structure like the one you suggest is a wonderful thing; it could be just as engaging as a novel with a traditional narrative structure. That “traditional narrative structure” standard, after all, is only a couple hundred years old. Your people, settings, and words may create a world people want to move into for a while. Some components of your world may even arrange themselves in a good old narrative arc, but maybe not. How interesting to think about what draws them together. It’s an intricate task. NaNoWriMo would be a way to spill out all the beads and check out their jewelry potential. (I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year but maybe I will tackle it again someday…)

    (I love the photo, by the way.)

  3. lynnjake says:

    Dang it Jeannine!! Now I think I should write as well as MaMo! I love the JePaintBroom! Will that take a month? I bet you’re knitting something incredible before long! A Martinez auxiliary sounds perfect to me. I’m still not signing up for fruitcake. Thanks about the photo. I love those little characters! They reminded me of an altar arrangement, even though they are not currently displayed. I hope we can get together soon.

  4. lynnjake says:

    Delaine, you are such a baker. You always amaze me with what you make. I want the recipe for the Blackberry pear crumble! As for fruitcake, that will probably never happen, even though it sounds so interesting when you make it. I’m also doing a photo a day challenge with my daughter and another friend. It’s one of those one month things. Super fun as long as I keep up!

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