Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Confessions of a Nanowrimo Winner

Maryann Dreske

On November 1, 2013, after having failed to complete a novel for Camp Nanowrimo in July, I recommitted to writing a novel for Nanowrimo. Since I had no plot, characters or ideas, I used an on-line plot generator and then began listening to my friends and family for ideas. My niece told me about a man she had dated who had two-timed her. This villainous man was the prototype for Frank Winchelli, an attorney. My friend Christi's mom had majored in home economics and was a wonderful homemaker. She became the model for Sheila's widowed mom Barbie.

Barbie took yoga classes at a studio similar to the one I attend in Royal Oak. My friend Laurajean is a retired school principal, and I used her as the starting point for Loretta, although Laurajean would never cause problems like Loretta did. The characters seemed to take on a life of their own. On their second date, Frank Winchelli admitted to Sheila that he was still married and was also dating his secretary. That wasn't supposed to happen until much later! Barbie unexpectedly adopted a dog and then dropped her long-term beau when she learned he was dog phobic. Loretta spilled the beans about a plot to get revenge on Jack's mother. Those crazy characters! I had virtually no control over them. They acted like students in a classroom when there are only fifteen minutes left until Winter break. When my writing tank was on empty, Nanowrimo would send pep talks and hints. The best hint I received when I was struggling was to "put my character up a tree." I took this to mean put the characters in bad situations, which I gladly did. Jack's mother tried to get Barbie to help break up Jack and Sheila. Jack's bowling alley was lost due to an urban renewal project. Barbie's new job in a distant city forced Sheila to finally leave home. Robin, Sheila's best friend was very suspicious of Jack, and unwittingly caused Sheila and Jack to break up. Robin's boyfriend returned to France (without her). One of the characters got pregnant. Someone was always up a tree. A theme of forgiveness and redemption began to unexpectedly weave itself through my novel. Barbie was a positive influence on everyone. Like my characters' crazy actions, the theme just emerged. Nanowrimo taught me that there is something magical about writing. It takes consistent effort to reach 50,000 words in a month and I have much more respect for novelists then I did before I wrote mine. But I also have a greater sense of awe for the creative process. Two of my friends read my novel as I wrote it. They encouraged me by discussing the plot, talking about possible events and situations, and even proofreading it for me. They have both asked me to write a sequel. That really made me feel good! I urge every one of you to try Nanowrimo or Camp Nanowrimo. And if you don't succeed, try again!

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