I’ve been writing for a long time. It’s something that I think about every time NaNoWriMo comes around. This is my eighth time participating, and it makes me realize just how long I’ve been on this journey. It also throws into sharp relief how little I think I’ve progressed, but that’s not what I felt like talking about today.
Blast from the Past
I’ve always known I wanted to be a storyteller. I vividly remember being in second grade and one of our assignments was to write a short story. We printed them out, illustrated the pages and finally, we bound them and made a cover, almost like they were proper books. We did ‘readings’ of our books in the library, and it was just enough of a taste to get me hooked.
I used to write stories on any paper I could find. I would carry around binders and folders, massive piles of paper that I had written on, and I would have to throw out and rewrite entire pages when I wanted to change something. It was frustrating. So I got creative.
We had some old computer parts in our basement, so I put together a very basic computer that ran Windows 98 and I made use of notepad. Yes, you read that right. My first experiences writing a novel on a computer were using Windows notepad. And I loved it. I would spend hours in my room, listening to music and writing at that computer. The story never ended either. I would just introduce a new problem and keep it going. It was fun and I wrote for no reason other than the joy of it.
I still wrote when I was in high school, but a lot of my friends were artists and I spent a lot more of my time drawing. I entertained ideas of combining my two passions and attempted to write and illustrate a graphic novel. It was not very good, and it was a lot of work. But towards the end of my high school days, a small group of friends and I started something new. We were all artists and storytellers, and we all wanted to create. So I brought up the idea of writing a story together that we could post online.
Looking back, I know that choice was the one that made me consider telling stories for the rest of my life. It revived my passion, and we would spend hours talking about this story, creating our characters and the world they lived in.
Unfortunately, we never got around to actually writing it, and real life happens. College and University and a ‘real job’ were waiting for all of us after high school, and for some of us, our passions waned.
But not for me. If anything, I wanted it even more after attending university.
If you’re curious, I entered university with the intention of getting my degree in Psychology. But I took an English lit class and fell in love with words all over again. I switched my major and became even more obsessed with writing and story-telling than I ever had before. I would spend my psychology lectures writing outlines and first drafts. I started a blog and became ravenous for more information about making a living as a writer.
But enough of all the little events in my life that have led me to this place, because it’s time to talk about the most important one.
How NaNoWriMo Changed My Life
This event holds a very special place in my heart because it forced me to take writing seriously.
Up until my first NaNo attempt, it was all for fun. It was with friends or just a hobby that I enjoyed on a busted computer in my room. It was a distraction and a pipe dream, and I had bits and pieces but I’d never properly written a story from beginning to end. I’d never made an outline or properly studied plot structure. I knew the basics that they taught you in school, but what was the difference between three-act structure and four-act structure? What were plot points? What was the inciting incident? It forced me to learn all of these things, and I devoured everything I could.
2013 was the first year I won NaNoWriMo, and with the first manuscript I’d ever finished. It’s terrible, by the way, and will never see the light of day, but it was this beautiful harmony of serious hard work and creative fun. I loved it. Every moment I spent writing that draft was amazing. And more importantly, it told me that I could do it. I could write an entire book. I could become a writer.
Of course, nothing ever goes that smoothly.
It took me years to properly finish the next manuscript, which I’ve talked about here before. The Wolves of the Far North was a struggle from beginning to end, but of course, there was a lot more pressure on me, and on that draft. I wanted it to be a better, more cohesive story because I’d done this before. I was a better writer and a better storyteller. It should have been easier. And yet, it was so much harder than anything I’ve ever had to do. Another hard-learned lesson – it never gets easier. You never know what you’re going to get when you start a story.
Here are a few of my word count graphs from 2012 to 2017. After 2013, there were some very poor attempts, some of them for older versions of Far North. 2017 was the first year where I finally felt like I had found my stride and a method that worked for me. I won 2018 with the first half of what would be the completed manuscript of Far North.
And then enter 2019, and I’m not sure how much of what I ‘learned’ still holds weight. Or maybe this is just a different story and a different process.
Writing is hard. Writing is so hard. And it really is a different journey every single time.
So that’s a little look into my writing journey. And to be honest, I needed it. I needed to remember how I got here. The fun parts and the hard parts. I’ve done this for so long I forget that it’s going to be hard no matter how experienced I am.
But that’s also what I enjoy about it. I enjoy the challenge. I enjoy that every new project has something to teach me and new ways of challenging me.
Each story I’ve written is part of the story that got me here.