By Lia Dun, 15, Marshall HS
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Write a novel in a month. That was my goal and the goal of this year’s participants in National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo for short)—a month-long contest in which people around the world write, or attempt to write, a 50,000-word novel (about 175 pages). No one reads your novel except you, and nobody gets mad if you don’t finish. You update your word count on the National Novel Writing Month website, and once you hit 50,000 words, you win! (Of course, the only thing you win is a downloadable certificate and the satisfaction of knowing you finished.)

And that’s what I’d gotten myself into. Fun.

I heard about Nanowrimo one day when I was bored and reading a random person’s LiveJournal, which mentioned the contest. I want to be an author and have started novels before, except I usually got only about five pages into them then quit. I thought that having a deadline for finishing a novel (11:59 p.m., Nov. 30) would force me to write on a regular basis and actually finish, so I decided to enter Nanowrimo. I planned on writing 2,000 words a day during the first week so that I could get ahead and then 1,600 words a day during the last three weeks.

On Nov. 1, I sat in front of my mom’s computer in the dining room attempting to type out an opening line, trying very hard to ignore that I had no idea what my plot was. A little voice in the back of my head was berating me for procrastinating on planning a storyline ahead of time because seriously, I had nothing. I stared at the empty Word document, realizing that it might be better to know what my story was about before trying to write an opening line, so I glanced down at a page of notes I had scribbled down the night before in a last-minute effort to plan out some semblance of setting and characters. Let’s see, I’d planned to have two female protagonists, one bleach-blonde Asian and the other a girl who liked to burn things. That worked. I don’t know why, but those were the only characters I could think of. I couldn’t read the rest of the notes I’d written, because my handwriting after that was illegible. Note to self: Never try to plan out a novel at one o’clock in the morning again.

I had to start writing that day or else I knew I’d fall behind and never reach the deadline. Well, I had two female characters. They could be friends or sisters or … oh, I got it—lovers. Lesbian relationships should be interesting to write about, and they could be … umm … angels or fairies or something like that because that would give me a lot to write about later. I needed more though, so I picked up a dictionary, opened it and pointed at a random word: sado-masochism – deriving pleasure, especially sexual pleasure, from the infliction of physical or mental pain either on others or on oneself.
Well, I thought. That’s new. And I started writing. The first line was horrible, but I pretended not to notice. The rest was even worse, the most awful probably being, “The rain was pounding hard on her, and everything was blurring together until all she was aware of was the spot where Nana held tight to her wrist and the air between them that was bubbling with their mixing body heat.”

Yeah. That’s what happens when a virgin tries to write the prelude to a sex scene. Not only is the scene completely unrealistic and awkward, but also the author (me) forgot what a run-on sentence is.

Still, I didn’t care about how terrible it was.

After all, I’d started writing a novel about sado-masochistic lesbian fairy-angels. Beat that. Over the next four weeks, I enjoyed working on my novel. It was frustrating sometimes because I’d get behind on my word count, but I would always catch up again. The writing was just as awful as the first day, but I was more focused on word count.

One month later…

I finished my novel (which I never titled) and am sick of it. For the first week, it was entertaining to think of different way for the angels (I decided against them being fairies too.) to have sex with and kill each other, but gratuitous amounts of violence and sex are only interesting for a little while. About mid-way through the second week of November, it got boring, and I got behind on my word count. I realized my protagonist (the bleach blonde) was a whiney brat and that her lover (the pyromaniac who, despite having an obsession with fire, turned out to be a sane character) would not have, under any non-contrived circumstance, gone near her. I tried to ignore this very obvious flaw in character development until halfway into the third week when my protagonist got so annoying that I had to kill off several supporting characters so that the focus was on someone else besides her for a while. This was actually helpful because, even though I know killing off characters for no reason doesn’t make for the best story, the death scenes drastically increased my word count, and I was back on schedule so that I finished my novel by the end of the fourth week.

I wrote about 1,600 words a day. Luckily, I’m on C-track, so I didn’t have school in November, which made it a lot easier to fit writing into my schedule. I still procrastinated, though, and did most of my writing between midnight and five o’clock in the morning.

I liked trying to write a novel. It was fun overall because after the first day, I started to enjoy seeing where the story went. Even if it was hard to think National Novel Writing Month was worth it (I didn’t really care about the downloadable certificate), I want to do it again next year.