Lockdown: Be a goldfish

I woke up several times Monday night into Tuesday morning. Got rolling a little later than planned but it was fine. Tried to work on two stories concurrently (it works sometimes), then had a couple of short meetings, one on Zoom and one on the phone. One of the Maui newspapers adapted one of my donor stories and ran it Tuesday, and you can see how the priorities of a local newspaper and a development writer are different. The story used some quotes I got from a scholarship recipient, so I emailed the student with the link, to let her know the story out.

I rewatched a few episodes of Ted Lasso, which you should totally see if you haven’t, whether or not you have an Apple TV+ subscription. I ordered a Ted Lasso t-shirt on Amazon and can’t wait to get it in the mail.

The NaNo Skype chat was very chatty for the first hour. Most of us didn’t start writing until ten, and I didn’t really get started until half an hour later. I did somehow put 2120 words together, leaving me slightly more than 5000 words from the goal. I can’t wait until this is over.

This is from Rainbow Rowell’s NaNoWriMo pep talk in 2013. I’d already read this one but I have it bookmarked because it reminds me of a few things about my own writing. As I’ve said, this pep talk actually convinced me to participate in 2013 when I wasn’t feeling it.

I was very skeptical about NaNoWriMo at first.

It seemed like something that amateur writers would do. Or young writers. People who needed to be tricked into finishing their books. I’d already written two books by October 2011, and sold them to publishers, and I couldn’t imagine writing either of them—or anything good—in a month.

That’s not writing, I thought, that’s just piling up words.

But then I thought about how wonderful it would be to have a pile of 50,000 words.

What I noticed right away was how easy it was for me to pick up. One of my challenges as an author is staying inside the fictional world I’m creating. I have to write in blocks (at least four hours at a time, at least four days in a row) to make any progress. During NaNoWriMo, I never left the world of the book long enough to lose momentum.

I stayed immersed in the story all month long, and that made everything come so much smoother than usual. I got a much quicker grasp on the main characters and their voices. The plotlines shot forward…

I mean, I still didn’t know whether what I’d written was any good. (I hadn’t even read it all in one piece!) But I was so excited about the novel, I wanted to write every day. And even when I wasn’t writing, my brain was still working on the story.

So… I didn’t actually finish my book that November. I met the word goal, but was only about halfway done with Fangirl. I continued working on it through January, then did a pretty heavy rewrite the next spring. Here’s something that really shocked me during my revisions: I kept almost every word I wrote during NaNoWriMo.

That 50,000-word pile I made wasn’t a mess at all. It’s some of the bravest writing I’ve ever done, and it includes my all-time favorite character, a guy I think I would’ve second-guessed to death under normal circumstances. NaNoWriMo helped me push past so many of my doubts and insecurities and bad habits. And I think that’s partly why I love Fangirl so much now—because I remember how swept away I felt when I was writing it.

Pretty neat trick.


That pile of 50,000 words is one thing. That flow of thoughts and ideas is another, and that’s what does it for me. Getting them on (figurative) paper so they’re not just a bunch of disjointed ideas among hundreds floating around in my head. Flinging them against the page to see how they look and read and feel so I can get a sense of whether there’s a novel in there or not is the real value for me.

Most of the time they just stay there, and that’s okay. I flung it, it stuck, and I realized it was a good idea but not enough for a novel. That’s going to happen. Better languishing on the page than teasing me in my brain.

I went to Taco Bell for breakfast again. It was the third time in a week, I think, and I’ve enjoyed it more each time. Skipped lunch but ate like a madman at dinner. I made angel hair pasta, dressing half with the remainder of my bagna càuda and half with some leftover jarred sauce (with red pepper flakes, brown sugar, garlic flakes, and tequila). I ate it before the Skype, saving the leftovers for Wednesday, but then I ate the leftovers when I was done writing. Way too much food.

Vicky and I continued our conversation about the products in her MLM line, via text. Jennifer sent me some great photos of a pizza she made. It’s giving me ideas. Crush Girl texted me a few questions about alcohol for some drinks she was making for a thing. Why she thought I’d know the answers is kind of a mystery, but, um. I did know the answers.

Not much of a day, but it’s the Tuesday before a very long weekend so it usually isn’t.

Hit me up in comments if you don’t have enough connectivity in these here times. It’s going to be a long winter.

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