6 days until NaNoWriMo 2010

So…as usual…I have failed on an epic scale with posting my thoughts this October. I fully intended to. I wanted to show, step-by-step, my pre-NaNo planning. I wanted to ramble about how the finishing-the-first-draft-of-the-current-project was going. I wanted to do all of this.

Ah, well. The best laid plans and all that.

We are now under a week until November 1 and the start of National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo never ceases to bring me great excitement. This will be my seventh year, and I’m just as excited about doing it as I’ve been in previous years. One of my friends from dance class pointed out last night that I write a novel every month, so what’s the deal?

Now, granted, she said this in jest. But it got me thinking.

First of all…I don’t write a novel every month. I write every month, yes. I’m working on novels in an almost perpetual way. But I do not normally write one novel in one month. Typically, one first draft will take me a couple months (sometimes more, depending on life). So there’s something exciting about challenging myself even further to sit my butt down in the chair and get that 1667-word quota for every day. There’s something exciting about making the internal editor shut up for once and just write (my internal editor is a real pain most of the time).

But here’s the other reason why NaNo still brings me great excitement: the community. Half of the fun is the community of Wrimos (the term for NaNo participants) from around the world. The NaNo message boards remain the one place on the internet where people post in complete, grammatically correct sentences. This community thrives off of jokes that make the rest of the world raise their eyebrows–plot bunnies, Traveling Shovel of Death, writing dares, and everything in between. As soon as October starts, this community jumps into action with amazing energy. Once November hits, this community becomes a place of comfort and procrastination and cheerleaders.

This is a community that encourages NaNo veterans to mentor Newbies. I have three Newbies this year who adopted me as their mentor. I am honored by this. I’m honored that these three Newbies chose me to help them through their first National Novel Writing Month.

This is a community that, when people meet in the real world, it’s like we’ve known each other forever. I went to the Columbus Region’s kick-off party last weekend. We all started throwing around inside jokes almost immediately. Everyone was welcoming. The energy was contagious.

This is what NaNoWriMo is to me. It’s mostly about the writing, but that’s not everything. I could do the 50k-in-30-days thing any time I want, but I choose to do it with the community. The writing is what makes the event, but the community is what makes it special.

Week Five: Walk Dogs

This week for the Wo-Town Writers vlog, we’re talking about how we got started writing. So listen to me ramble on for a while about my writerly history.

Let the countdown begin!

Friday was a very important day. It was October 1. That can only mean one thing…

We’re officially under one month from National Novel Writing Month!

I love NaNoWriMo. It’s my Christmas (and Christmas is my favorite holiday, so you KNOW I mean business when I say that). This will be my seventh year participating. Many of those years were such epic fails that it’s humiliating, but last year I finally crossed that 50k finish line to win.

The first year I participated was 2004, the November of my senior year of high school. My first NaNo novel was a ridiculous piece of fiction about a bunch of kids in the marching band. All the characters were very solidly based off of my fellow band geeks. Everyone got really into it–everyone who had a character in the story bugged me about it for the whole month and beyond. It was great fun, but I didn’t win. In fact, when I finally did finish the story, the whole thing only clocked in at about 25k. Fail.

Over the years, I’ve learned two important lessons to success. First of all, you have to be actually excited and invested in your story. It’s been the years that I was actually interested in what I was writing that I made a decent dent. The years when I just didn’t care that much, I would only write a couple thousand words for the whole month. The other thing I’ve learned is that you need to have a story that you can actually pull out to 50k.

That first attempt in November 2004 was clearly not a story I could stretch to 50k, seeing as how the finished product was half that. I have no idea if the other years I could have stretched, because most of the time, I wasn’t fully excited about the story anyway.

Then, last year, I had a story I was psyched about and was pretty sure I could pull to 50k. Granted, I also had a lot of unemployment-induced free time and a diet that I needed to distract myself from, but those were just extra helps. And I won! And I was excited and ran around and scared people by my enthusiasm and I printed my certificate and bought a winner’s shirt and stared at the pretty purple WINNER bar on my NaNo profile for a year.

This year is going to be interesting. I have a story I’m really excited for and looks like I can make into at least 50k. On the other hand, I also have a full-time job and limited free time when I’m not working (between working out and various appointments and my freelance job and my activities). Last year was a walk in the park with the free time. This year is going to be a real challenge.

I’m going to try to post updates on here. If I remember. And we all know how much I fail with that from time to time.

Yay NaNoWriMo!!! <3

Meaningful Bookstore Chatting

I apologize for the epic fail that was my posting some entries throughout Banned Books Week. I had this whole thing thought out and I was going to be like “here’s a book…here’s why it was banned…here why that’s a stupid reason,” but life got in the way. Stupid life. And now I’m tired.

However, I feel like I kind of made up for it last night with my friends. You see, a handful of us went to Border’s last night and milled around there for TWO HOURS (we went because one of my friends’ brothers just published HIS first book and was having a signing, so we were being supportive) and we ended up back in the YA area. If you watch the Wo-Town Writers vlog I post on Mondays, you’ll know these people too–three of the other four girls who vlog with me throughout the week…Jessi (whose brother is now an UBER-FAMOUS author because I have a signed copy of his book and I say so), Janet, and Caitlin. So we geeked out for a while and threw book recommendations at each other like the Apocolypse will be here tomorrow and then things took a turn for the serious.

I don’t remember what started it. We may have been talking about each other’s videos from last week or the fact that our other friend and fellow vlogger, Emily, almost made us all cry with her video, or perhaps it was when Caitlin started weilding around YA books that have been banned for stupid reasons. Whatever it was, we started ranting and debating and meaningfully chatting with each other about banned books and why those who ban them suck.

Here’s the consensus we came to: people ban these YA books for reasons like violence or drugs or sex or language. When you ban books for reasons like that, you’re just hiding the problem. You’re just pretending the problem doesn’t exist. But it DOES. Hiding the problem doesn’t go away. Because, here’s the truth…in the real world, violence and drugs and sex and foul language are EVERYWHERE. Hell, you can’t turn on the news without having all of these make an appearance at least once. Last week, a family from my church was the lead story on the news at least once (probably more, but that’s the only night I happened to have the news on when it started)–the dad freaked out, shot his two sons, shot himself, left a suicide note, and then his wife found them when she came home. TRAUMA much? These types of things are everywhere and it’s not happy and it’s not pretty, but we can’t hide from it. All the kids in my church who knew the two boys are having to face this reality and it sounds like their parents are doing everything to shield them from it–the mother from this family wanted the children’s choir to sing at the boys’ memorial service, but the parents freaked out. I guess I can understand, because it’s a horrible situation, but you can’t keep that veil down forever.

It’s the same thing with book banning and challenging. Parents read five sentences from a book or the synopsis online or see the cover or whatever and then subsequently shit a brick. NO! I don’t want my child to know that there is violence in the world! There’s no murder or rape or domestic abuse! No one drops the f-bomb or says terrible things! The world is a pretty, shiny place full of rainbows and butterflies and that’s all I want my children to know!

But then these kids grow up and realize that it’s NOT all rainbows and butterflies. They learn that bad things happen, or perhaps, god forbid, something bad happens to them. And because you banned [insert banned book here], your child can’t know how to cope with that. Because you took Speak off the reading list at school, now your teenager doesn’t know how to feel about the emotional effects of rape. Because you insisted that Harry Potter be removed from your library because it promotes Satanism (which is just crap on so many levels), your child can’t read about all those deep, underlying messages of love and friendship and fighting for what’s right. Because you took away Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, your pubescent girl can’t know that those thoughts are normal and those questions are normal and wondering about what on EARTH is going on to your body right now is normal.

I am so thankful that my parents never restricted what I read. Never once did my mom see I was reading something and tell me I had to wait until I was older. Not once did my dad storm into my school or my library and say that they couldn’t have this book on display because I might somehow get my hands on it. I read Harry Potter many times, and while my parents rolled their eyes and wondered how many times I could possibly read this series before I grew bored (answer: I have no idea, because I’m still not bored with it yet), they never thought I was going to want to do witchcraft. I read The Lovely Bones many times as well, and while my mom said I was morbid and couldn’t understand why I love this book so much, she never said that I was going to scar myself for life. They let me make my own mistakes with my reading. One time, while we were at the library when I was younger, I somehow got my hands on a book about the Black Plague and proceeded to read it before we left (it was just a short book…with pictures…in the older kids’ area). I scarred myself. I locked myself in my room when we got home and didn’t come out, nor did I say anything was wrong when my mom asked. But that was my own mistake to make and my parents always let me make them (with reading, at least). That book was way too old for me and far too graphic and I was traumatized for a few days, but there we are. I didn’t read the book again.

I’m sure that book is still in the library, though, because my parents never challenged it or said it should be on a higher shelf.

The moral of this very long story is…you can’t shield your kids from the world. You can’t assume that they are too young to handle the tough stuff and the deep emotions. They need to learn how to cope with these things now, they need to learn that what they feel is normal, and they need to understand how the world truly is. You’re just hurting them more by hiding them from the books that would teach them these things.