With a little help from my friends – NaNoWriMo 2015

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) sent hundreds of thousands of writers to their keyboards in November to write the novels they know they have in them. Historically, 17% of those who start succeed.Dream Big Dreams I was one of those writers.

Writing 50,000 words in a month is no easy task, especially for someone with my perfectionist tendencies. The Nano concept is that I must securely lock my perfectionist self in the closet at the beginning of the month and not let her out until I’ve written those words. No re-reading, no re-writing, no editing. Only more words. Everyday, more words.

It makes me anxious just to think about it.

Yet, I did succeed, writing 50,406 words by November 24. (Sound the trumpets!). I was helped along by the wisdom of writers I admire. With a tip of the hat to John Lennon for the blog title, I offer the following:

“Every morning I tell myself: Write recklessly. You can play it safe tomorrow.” – Sue Monk Kidd

Kidd’s prose is beautiful, thoughtful, every word perfectly chosen. Yet she gets there by first writing recklessly. The crafting of each perfect word comes later. November was for reckless.

“I only write when I’m inspired, and I make sure I’m inspired every morning at 9 a.m.” – Peter DeVries

I have always taken DeVries’ workman-like words to heart. Some mornings, I had a scene in mind to write; on other days, my mind was a blank. Yet, I committed to write. And I did. My mind always sent something to my fingers.

“I can’t write the book I want to write, but I can and will write the book I’m capable of writing.” – Ann Patchett

The whispers of doubt grew loud throughout the month. What right do I have to write this story? How can it be any good? Will anyone care to read it? Patchett reminded me of the mantra I’ve repeated with my previous books: Write the best story I can, as well as I can. It’s all I can do. That will be enough.

“Shitty first drafts … All good writers write them.” – Anne Lamott

Lamott is never far away during NaNoWriMo. Many of the words I wrote (while individually perfectly good words) came together as such cliched-ridden drivel that I was too embarrassed to let them go. So I highlighted them in yellow or wrote CLICHE!!! after them just so I could move on. Wow, that was some really bad writing. But every word, no matter how bad, moved me toward the goal. I trust Lamott and will fix it in the second and third and fourth drafts.

These writers were my spirit guides. They encouraged me to keep writing no matter what. I arrived at the end of November with characters I understand better, scenes I had not previously envisioned, new plot lines I may (or may not) keep, and holes yet to be filled. I discovered things about myself and the story.

And there was one more spirit guide.

“It’s not our abilities that show what we really are. It’s our choices.” – Albus Dumbledore

Albus Dumbledore wasn’t a writer, but his advice to Harry Potter applies just as well. Writing is a choice, and success requires that I show up. In November, thanks to NaNoWriMo, I showed up.

Whether you’re a writer or not, whose words of wisdom inspire you?

*Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

Writing reckessly – NaNoWriMo 2015

“Every morning I tell myself: Write recklessly today.

You can play it safe tomorrow.” – Sue Monk Kidd

NANOWRIMO CRESTAs I join tens of thousands of other writers to tackle the National Novel Writing Month challenge to write 50,000 words in November, Kidd’s comment is particularly appropriate.

Writing 50,000 words in a month – 1,666 words every single day – is no easy task. Life gets in the way. The muse takes a vacation. I convince myself I deserve a break. However you slice it, 50,000 words in one month is tough. But Kidd has offered me words to live by.

To write 50,000 words or more, I promise to write recklessly:

  • I won’t look back. If I look back, I’ll get mired in re-writing and re-thinking. I will look ahead and just keep writing.
  • I will lock my internal critic in the closet. I won’t listen to any naysayers. Even if what I write is dreck (and I expect much of it will be), I will keep writing.
  • I will let the muse take me where she will. I’ve lived with these characters for a good long while; they know what they want to do. I will get out of their way and keep writing.
  • I will not let the outline I’ve prepared for the month get in my way. It’s a starting point to keep writing, not the designation.
  • I won’t let road trips or remodeling projects or family visits or holiday dinners – all of which are scheduled in November – deter me from the goal. I’ll write no matter what.
  • Finally, I will follow Sue Monk Kidd’s example. Every day in November, I will write recklessly.

NaNoWriMo was the genesis of my novel Go Away Home. I’m hoping for the same inspiration, encouragement, and push for my current novel.

Wish me luck. I will see you again in December.

Shameless Self Promotion Note: While I’m writing, you may want to be reading. A reminder that the paperback version of Go Away Home is 40% off – best price this year – until November 20. Possible gift idea?

The Invention of Wings – Review – Historical Fiction

The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd

I’ve been a fan of Sue Monk Kidd since I read The Secret Life of Bees. So when Kidd released her newest novel The Invention of Wings, historical fiction set in the early 19th century, I was eager to read. The book did not disappoint.

The Invention of Wings tells the story of 11-year-old Sarah Grimké who is given 10-year-old slave girl – Hetty “Handful” Grimké – as a birthday present. The slave is intended to be Sarah’s handmaid for the rest of her life. But Sarah cannot countenance owning another human being and refuses the gift.

Raised by an educated father with educated brothers, Sarah believes she is capable of speaking her mind and being heard. She is quite wrong. Not only does Sarah suffer a speech impediment, she also suffers from being a woman.

Yet she pushes on, her personality encompassed in this early description of herself: “Drawing a breath, I flung myself across the door sill. That was the artless way I navigated the hurdles of girlhood.” Flinging herself forward in spite of obstacles is also the way Sarah navigates the rest of her life.

Meanwhile, Handful (the basket name given by her mauma) or Hetty (the proper name given by her owners) struggles just as mightily with her personality and her circumstances. Even at 10, Handful knows that the story her mother tells her about their people in Africa learning to fly is not true. Yet she engages in a life-long struggle to achieve just that.

Handful describes her dilemma this way: “I always had something smart to say, but my voice had run down my throat like a kitchen mouse.” A paragraph later she adds, “I stopped all my fidget then. My whole self went down in the hole where my voice was. I tried to do what they said God wanted. Obey, be quiet, be still.”

Obeying, being quiet, being still are not in Handful’s nature, exacerbating the challenges she faces but ultimately giving her the courage she needs for the crucial moment when she does fly.

Women finding their voices – figuratively and literally – is a powerful theme of this wonderful novel. The Grimkés are real people who lived in Charleston. Sarah and her younger sister Angelina grow into fearless pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements. While Handful is a fictional character, the juxtaposition of the two women – one a black slave and the other a free white – makes their journeys to empowerment all the more striking.

It doesn’t matter station. It doesn’t matter time in history. It doesn’t matter black or white. Women always seek to find their voices, to invent their wings.

As a reader, I found The Invention of Wings totally satisfying. Details of time and place that put me right in the center of the action without overburdening. A plot that intertwined the two stories and moved both along. Suspense. Emotion. A conclusion that wove it all together and did not feel contrived.

As a woman who worked in a male-dominated business and who was ordered at one point to “attend the meeting but don’t talk,” I could relate to the “voice” and empowerment issues Sarah and Handful faced.

As a writer, I am inspired by Sue Monk Kidd’s ability to find fresh ways to describe everything from water to clothing. I admire the way she creates voices for each character that are unique.

With The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd solidifies her place in the Top 10 of my all-time favorite authors. Do not miss this one.