Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Just when you think you have it all figured out, God throws you a curveball.

And sometimes you hit a homerun. That's kind of what happened in October. 

As I saw numerous friends on Facebook and Twitter talking about their excitement over National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November, I debated whether or not to try. 

I had participated twice before. The first time I successfully completed the challenge; I wrote 50,000 words of a new novel in 30 days. The second time I failed miserably, giving up after writing only three or four paragraphs.

I blamed anxiety. I'd had some real-life issues get in the way over the past couple of years, and the stress I now felt looking at a blank page nearly pushed me into clear-on panic attacks. 

I figured another try would result in another failure, and I simply couldn't take that. 

Then, out of the blue, a friend from my Sacred Heart Elementary/Norfolk Catholic High School days -- Steven Sobotka -- left a comment on my blog and later asked me if I was planning on participating in this year's NaNoWriMo challenge.

I'm not sure if Steven had read the blog post I wrote in mid-October about overcoming writer's block or whether his sudden re-emergence in my life (we hadn't corresponded in more than a year) was all part of the synchronicity about which I spoke in that post. 

Whatever happened, it happened at the perfect time. Something about his question hit the kick-start on that part of me that likes to challenge myself. 

Immediately, I told him yes. 

Two seconds later, I found myself asking, "What the hell did I do that for?"

But it was too late to take it back. I'd already pressed the "Tweet" button. I was committed. 

I'd be lying if I didn't say I wasn't scared out of my mind the entire first week of NaNoWriMo. I had the story inside my head, waiting to be told. The characters were just sitting there, waiting for me to mess with them. So plotting a novel wasn't really an issue. 

There's a big difference between plotting a novel out in your head and actually putting the words on a screen, though. It takes patience to remain in the scene on which you're working. It takes forethought to make the story flow. And, for someone like me - someone who writes news stories on a daily basis -- it takes a lot of restraint to avoid fixing errors and wasting time on selecting that perfect word. 

After the first week, my cousin, Jill (God bless her), started pressing to see samples of what I was writing. She didn't want to wait. She didn't care about first-draft quality writing. (Like I said, God bless her.)

So I sent her what I'd written. And then she asked for more. 

So I sent her another installment. And again she asked for more. In all, I sent her about 30,000 words of what I'd written. 

That's when I must have hit the sweet spot. 

You see, when I first started writing -- way back before God invented dirt -- my goal was to write something that would touch someone in such a way that it would make them cry. 

I'd accomplished that with Nick and Heather's story, but I doubted that I could ever dig that deeply again.

Then Jill sent me a text saying she had tears in her eyes. 


So here I am. It's been 35 days since I began writing the first draft of this shiny new novel. I have 50,000+ words under my belt. And while my fear of the blank page is not gone, it is severely diminished. 

I think I can do this. 

But without a push from Steven and some not-so-gentle prodding from Jill, I wouldn't have done it.

So thanks you two. I wouldn't have done it without you.

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo? How was your experience?

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