All the things NaNoWriMo and My Leah Novel
Writer’s note: If this feels familiar, it’s possible you read it way back in November 2022 when I wrote in real time during NaNoWriMo. The original post was on Substack. I have since changed platforms for me email newsletter. (If that still interests you, you can sign-up for “Postcards” here.) However, in making future plans for my online writing spaces, I have decided to house my NaNoWriMo 2022 story here on Mrs. Writer. Very little changes, if any, have been made. Enjoy!
What is NaNoWriMo?
Who? For writers and anyone who has wanted to try write a book 🙂
What? Short National Novel Writing Month. Where writers try and write 50,000 words in a month (1,667 words a day) 😃
When? The entire month of November.
Where? Anywhere in the world 🙂 hometown, on vacation, during the holidays, in your Air BnB or hotel room, at a coffee shop or library, in the comfort of your own home.
Why? Because we’re crazy and would do anything for our stories 😝
Okay, okay, serious answer: to get past the creative block of thinking about writing a book and actually writing it.
Chris Baty founded National Novel Writing Month in 1999 with 20 friends in the Bay Area because, in his own words, “We knew we loved books. And so we set out to write them.” You can read more about why and how that first year went in his book, No Plot? No Problem! A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days.
Why 50,000 words? It’s a type-able amount for busy writers and an entire story arc fits in this word count. It’s equivalent in length to Chris Baty’s own book, No Plot? No Problem!, The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, True Grit by Charles Portis, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, to name a few.
I’ve participated on and off since at least 2012, maybe even before that. Ant and I did some Camp NaNo’s together a few times since 2013. In November of 2015 though—that was magic. I won! Reached and surpassed 50,000 words. It was amazing. It was an incredible writing high and I’m excited to do it again.
This past July, I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo. Basically the same idea, but you can set your own word count goal. I decided to do minutes instead and just tracked that. My goal was an hour a day. And I achieved it! Amongst house-sitting and Fourth of July, helping out a friend’s parents, celebrating our anniversary, I learned that an hour a day was doable.
I went way back to the beginning and figured out why I wanted to write this novel, what the point of this novel is, it’s working title and synopsis, some of the characters. I have a timeline and scenes.
All of this lined up magically with the writing coach duo team I was working with at the while working through the Summer Blueprint Challenge. It was so fun! I have the start of an outline that will help me write the actual story.
And that leads right into the novel…
Who is Leah?
Leah has come so far since the early days of Camp NaNoWriMo 2016. We both have. And during the ten dedicated weeks that I worked on this story, the timeline and ages of some of the main characters have changed a bit since the original version, but the core story has not.
Here’s the working synopsis I have:
These Things Called Humans explores life as high school ends and the “real world” begins. Having been involved in Future Farmers of America (FFA) her entire high school career, Leah thought she knew who she was and what she wanted. Now, a month out from graduation, Leah is newly single and already learning that some friends don’t stick around and that her new summer job at the coffee and board game shop isn’t the only way to cure heartbreak.
Leah finds friends in co-workers, Kim and Liam, who remind her that there is so much joy in living life. She also meets Connor, a frequent patron of the coffee and board game shop, who broadens her view of what being a nerd is. (Everyone’s nerdy about something, right?) The two cross paths at a book festival in Los Angeles and play tourists in the beautiful City of Angels.
Who knew a simple internet search of “book festivals near me” would lead her on a journey of rediscovery—reading, making friends, learning new games. Leah starts to define herself outside of her high school peers and starts to see people as more than their cliques. She learns what it means to be liked for who you are and, more importantly, to like who you are, as a human and not a label.
My originally brainstormed title was This Thing Called Life, but as I changed the timeline and made the story start just before graduation and just barely step into the post-high-school life it felt pre-mature to make it a story about Life.
Why Leah? Why this story?
My sophomore year of high school, I took Agriculture Science 1 and became a member of the local Future Farmers of America (FFA) Chapter. I loved it because I learned about livestock and got to raise a total of three pigs throughout high school. That was 13 years ago. To this day, I still love county fairs and farm animals. However, two days short of nine years ago, I married a gamer. We watch anime and listen to all genres of music together. He’s a cat person; I love dogs and cats now.
Something I’ve learned in the years since graduation: life isn’t as black-and-white as we think it is in or out of high school. A lot of that was me trying to find acceptance from a group of peers, kids really, that were trying to figure themselves out and fit in too. I wore those rose-colored glasses for the remainder of high school, and it was only once it ended, and I wasn’t around those same peers every day, that I realized people can be more than one thing.
This story, that I lovingly call my Leah Novel, will explore life after she’s broken up with her high school boyfriend and after high school itself has ended. It’s about how we go from knowing Exactly What We Want in high school to figuring out Who We Are Apart From those people that we’ve spent the last four or more years with. Leah’s story will explore the immediacy of post-high school life when the peers are gone, the fair rides taken down, the friends and familiar faces of the last four years aren’t there every day in 1st period or 2nd lunch or Thursday’s block schedule, where there’s no monthly FFA meeting to attend or Friday night football games to look forward to. She’s been figuring out who she is almost a year into her community college experience, working part-time as a barista. We have yet to figure what she wants to be when she grows up. Right now, she just wants to like who she is: a reader, a barista, becoming friends with her co-workers Liam and Kim, learning what it’s like to be accepted for who she is and not the brand of jeans or shoes she’s wearing.
When I decided to sign up for Ag Science, I just wanted to make my older stepsister, my dad, and his side of the family proud and it was easy to do that by choosing FFA, but it also wasn’t an “If this, then that” decision, at least not consciously. It was all about farm animals for me, but I think I lost sight of that and wanted the approval of the peers who wore wranglers and went to the rodeo and lived on farms. I wanted their acceptance the most.
Leah will start to define the edges of herself in this new space and might just fall in love again in the process.
Do I have a plan?
I have a rough plan. Write the first-half of the day T/W/TH before I go to work at the daycare. Write possibly before but definitely after my house-cleaning gig on Fridays. Sunday afternoons will be for writing. Mondays are a mystery due to watching my niece and nephew this day and then every other week we have small group at 6:30pm; so, I might get a little time in between the end of one event and the start of the next.
I do have the entire week of Thanksgiving off from the daycare, so I can fit extra writing in here. And then I’ll obviously be working around the actual Thanksgiving holiday. But it’s good to be busy and have other things going on to help make it more desirable to write instead of just a thing that needs to be checked-off the to-do list.
So, in the pursuit of finishing this draft and bringing Leah’s story to light, here’s to NaNoWriMo! Here’s to Leah and Stories and the words I want to tell that I haven’t written yet! Here’s to dreams and making them come to life!
I’ll show up here with an October blog posts round-up on 10/31 or 11/1 and then it’ll be mainly NaNo updates for 31 days =D
I’m glad you’re here! And I hope you’re ready for this adventure =D
Find the rest of the posts in the journey here:
NaNoWriMo #2 // Day 1 Update
NaNoWriMo #3 // Day 2
NaNoWriMo #4 // Day 3–er, Day 4
NaNoWriMo #5 // Best Laid Plans
NaNoWriMo #6 // Muddling Through the Middle
NaNoWriMo #7 // The Giftstretch: Day 28
NaNoWriMo #8 // Day 29
NaNoWriMo #9 // Day 30
NaNoWriMo #10 // NaNoWinner Acceptance Speech
// 1:54pm-1:56pm. On my lunch break at LLD at their dining room table. And then I got distracted by Antia things.
// 5:28pm-5:38pm. Dining room table before leaving for Kfam’s
// 1:42pm-1:55. Outside in the sunshine in my lunch break at the daycare
// 8:43pm-9:15pm. Writing it he pink chair in the notes app. Reading my OG post to remind me of the purpose of this lol
10/29/22 // 2:29pm-4:20. Writing Desk. “Golden Hour” Kasey Musgraves album. Word Count: 1,504.
1/15/23 // 6:54pm-7:30. Writing Desk; listening to my Show Tunes playlist on Spotify. // Copy and pasting from OG Substack post. Added the picture(s) and intro paragraph. Planned out a loose schedule for posting NaNo series.
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