Write a Novel in a Month?

I spent time on a writing retreat with Judith Kelliher this weekend, and I can feel the tug of my book’s main characters today as I get my head back into my real work. I feel Roxie, Frank, and Alex calling me to come back and make them do and say things.

I haven’t worked on my novel, Unleashing the Sun, in at least six to eight months, lacking time, energy, ideas, motivation, direction—you name it. I was prompted to open the manuscript last weekend, though, while on an overnight at the Red Lion Inn with my golden retriever Lipton for company.

I’d finished reading the book I brought with me, had my laptop handy, and thought it was as good a time as any to dive back into the writer’s world. Plus, I’d been seeing a lot of posts on Facebook on the celebration of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November. I decided to jump on the wordsmithing wagon while it was passing through the station.

To be clear, I have no illusions I will finish my novel this month. I haven’t been able to finish it in three or four years, after all. But I came back to it with a new energy and a clearer sense of how to breathe life into my characters. I have to experience them more, channel them, and get even further into their eclectic minds.

A week ago Sunday, I sat on my bed at the Red Lion Inn after a brisk walk through the woods with the dog, and I rewrote the first chapter. This weekend, with Judy, I kept going, rewriting chapters two, three, four, and five, taking breaks to walk with the dog and imagine Roxie and the others in action.

Judy was working on her chapters twelve and thirteen in her nonfiction work about her brother Bobby’s two tours in Vietnam. What we learned yet again is that writing a book is damn hard.

“This is hard,” Judy hollered Saturday afternoon as she sat at the kitchen table at Emily’s B&B in Amherst, Massachusetts. She pretended to cry and made sorrowful sounds. Then, she made a cup of hazelnut hot chocolate, sat down, and kept writing.

Later that day, it was my turn to call out in frustration from my writing perch, again, my bed. “This is too hard,” I said, at a complete loss as to how to rewrite my fourth chapter. I had written three paragraphs in an hour, and I hated each and every sentence. “I don’t know how to do it.”

I made a cup of tea, paced around our cozy little suite, where Lipton rested on the floor with a swatch of stuffed animal in her mouth, and I, too, sat back down and kept writing.

I’m committed to either finishing the book by the spring of 2018 or abandoning it entirely. It’s time to either bring it to market or kiss it goodbye. What I pledge in NaNoWriMo is not to give up on it, or myself, just yet.


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