One fateful day in September, I made one of the boldest and smartest decisions of my life – I signed up for National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo participants are given the goal of writing 50,000 words in just 30 days. Yes, that’s an entire novel, or in my case two children’s fantasy novels. My characters have been haunting me for some time, invading my dreams, my meals, my play time with my children … pretty much butting in whenever they feel like it, but I had no plan, no world for them to live in. What was I thinking?
After a few days of panic and self-doubt, I got to work through September, stealing minutes and hours whenever I could. Slowly the movie in my mind began to develop. It was sketchy at first, but fleshing out every time I returned.
I admit, initially I was a little embarrassed to talk, even to friends and family, about the place where I was spending so much time. Who was I to invent an entire world complete with history and legends? Then as I put pen to paper, or fingers to the keyboard, again my doubts would evaporate. I am a writer. Without me, these wonderful people and this beautiful, magical landscape would never exist.
So as the first of November approached, I prepared to immerse myself in this magical world for 30 days. I couldn’t wait to travel with my young new friends as they experienced self-discovery and adventure. With the sound of the starter’s gun (admittedly an imaginary one) ringing in my ears I entered the land of Toldara and started to type without hesitation.
Gem tried to make sense of the scene before her. She had entered a grove surrounded by huge, ancient trees. This was the heart of the forest, but instead of being vibrant and full of life, the white trees were strangely shadowed. Another sinister shadow climbed from the centre of the grove, disappearing into the sky. Gem’s fingers began to tingle and she glanced down to see the slender spring saplings in her hands were glowing green. She heard music in her mind, willing her to keep going. As she forced her feet towards the centre of the circle she began to twist the saplings together.”
I burnt the dinner (more than once), the washing piled up, the floors weren’t vacuumed, but I was writing … every day … every moment I could, it was the most incredible feeling, I couldn’t get enough. My characters fought internal battles and took me to places I’d never anticipated. They also showed me just how far they were willing to go to protect the world I had created for them.
Any chance Gem had to either process what Jack had just said, or reply, was cut off by the roar that echoed across the dunes. Talking was forgotten as the pair stumbled and ran any way they could towards the tree. At the top of the next dune Gem saw Jack look back towards the giant’s castle.
“He’s coming,” he said. “He’s on the sand. Hurry.”
They doubled their efforts, clinging to each other as they slipped and tumbled down the far side of the dune. Only two to go.
Gem was covered in sand, it was in her ears, her hair and all over her face. To make matters worse, the sun was threatening to pop over the horizon. She’d lost her gauze somewhere back in the tunnel and she knew how blinding the sunrise could be.”
Now we are hitting the halfway mark of NaNoWriMo and so far I have written around 33,000 words. Writing is often talked about as a journey and I can’t think of a better description. Try to imagine the feeling you get when you’re returning home from a holiday or an event you’d been looking forward to – you’re sad it’s over, but appreciate the wonderful, unexpected things that also happened. Your smile is tinged with a touch of disappointment that the experience is ending. That’s how I feel now.
I will be spending many more months and possibly years with Gem and Jack, editing and refining their stories, but I will never forget the thrill of traveling with them for the first time and writing these first books about their world. Perhaps I would have done it anyway, but NaNoWriMo gave me the nudge I needed.