NaNoWriMo: What happens next

December 1, I woke up at 7:30 a.m. very relieved.

I had planned to continue getting up earlier, not to write my novel for National Novel Writing Month but to exercise. If I could get up early to write, the thought went, it should be just as easy to get up to work out. And I did that, on December 2. But the first day after completely 50,000 words in a month? I needed some sleep.

For the record, I wrote 50,075 words of the first draft of a novel titled (for now) Two Women. I have had this novel rattling around in my brain, beginning to end, since about 2003. I remember sitting at my tiny desk in our 400- square -foot Manhattan apartment, looking through the bars on the front room window at the snow that never seemed to melt. I remember wanting to get to be done with the novel I was currently working on, Summer in Samoa, so I could get to my two women.

But I have the opposite of writer’s block. I have so much in my head that is dying to come out but there isn’t enough time and I don’t know what I should work on or when. I’ve always thought I needed a manager or an agent, but to get one of those, I need to have something ready to publish. Catch-22 indeed.

So I finished the first draft of Summer in Samoa then went back to my very first novel, Starter Marriage, which I was lucky enough to have an agent read. Unfortunately, she declined to represent it. So I turned my attention to Dunderhead, another novel I’d written into a third draft. And then there were the short stories to send out and the collection to pitch to publishers. I didn’t think about Two Women for many years, knowing that I’d get to it eventually.

But without NaNoWriMo, it would have been many more years.

That was the biggest benefit of NaNoWriMo for me. It forced me, with a tight but doable deadline, to get that novel out of my head and on to the page. And this first draft isn’t finished. The language is horrible and cliched. Most parts are just rough sketches of what happens at that point in the story. And it’s about 50,000 words too short. It will be a while before I can get back to rewrite this draft but at least it’s out.

And I already have another novel ready for next November’s NaNoWriMo. This one has been brewing since about 2000, so it should be ready by then.

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