Lost in the story



Yesterday I finished. 50,000+ words since November 1st: “WINNER”

That’s what flashed on the screen after I uploaded my words to the site. But the truth is, I won the battle but not the war. (Can you tell I’ve been submerged in a novel that takes place during wartime?) I haven’t typed THE END. I’ve got my NaNo words, but I’m not done with first draft and then I GET TO edit and revise.

And I’m pretty happy about that. Because I’m lost in my story.

I can’t stop thinking about Pat and Marin and Jason and Jimmy and Mrs. Murphy and Ray and Tyler (if that’s the name that sticks). I dreamed about them last night. I wake up early to rush to the computer. I mean early. Some days in the middle of November, my eyes flew open a little before four and no matter what I couldn’t get back to sleep. So I’d get up and write. This morning was slightly better. I slept in until 4:15. (You get the point.)

And I’ve been annoyed and antsy if I can’t write. And agitated.

I don’t know how long the finishing of the first draft will take. Or the revisions after that. I do know that I’ve read a lot of blogs lately that point the fingers at NaNo-ers (like me!). I’ve been surprised. Some have been judgmental. Saying that “no one should write a novel in a month.” Because it won’t be good, that it will degrade the overall quality of what’s out there to read. I don’t know about that. I know that some novels that are well regarded (like The Night Circus, Wool, and Water for Elephants for example) got their start as NaNo novels. And I even read a great post about other (longer ago) writers who wrote speedy fast even before NaNo was around–and their novels are still well regarded. Bradbury, Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson. You can read about them here, it’s pretty cool. I also know that we all write in our own way, our own time.

And I know this, too. NaNoWriMo worked for me. And I’m happy about where it took me. Lost in my story, excited to write (and revise) more. I felt stalled out before I started this month, and my goal was to get writing again, and I did. Some of the results of my experiment truly surprised me, too. As I was writing, some of what I wrote seemed forced and like it wouldn’t “sound right” after I finished, but my fears were unfounded. Some parts I barely remember writing, and that’s always a good sign to me that I entered the writing zone. That surprises me, too (and makes me happy): that I can force the zone.

I can thank NaNoWriMo for that. For helping me bring back the magic and for helping me get lost in my story again. I’m thankful for that.

Happy Thanksgiving (and happy writing!),



  1. Shary says:

    Congrats! I knew you’d win NANO. Can’t wait to read it. Ignore the naysayers. In fact , ignore anyone who says “no one” or “everyone.” I’ve read plenty of bad novels that took years to write. Yours is going to be great.

  2. Christine M Grote says:

    One of these days. Maybe next year . . .

  3. Lisa Kramer says:

    I’m doing the happy Snoopy dance for both of us. I know in past years I was anti-NaNo, not because I don’t believe novels shouldn’t be written in a month (some of the best works around were written in short time periods) but because I have issues with putting the stress on quantity, and the stress on writer’s to write every day no matter what. But, I’m all for shitty (excuse my French) first drafts, and that is what I have written (or will have completed once I’m done). Is it perfect? Of course not. Does it have enough going for it to continue working and move on to the editing process? Heck ya! I am really proud of this book, and I finally have shared the story of a character who has been haunting me for months. I proved to myself that I can do this. Like you, I also embrace my early mornings rather than fighting against them–although this morning I didn’t jump up to write, the urgency wasn’t there. But that urgency doesn’t have to be there every day, that’s something else I learned. Some days my brain just needs to take time off from the story, to let things gel and to move forward the next time I try to write. I’ve learned so much from participating in NaNo this year. Go us!

    • ME TOO (anti NaNo in the past; I’ve been signed up on their site for about 3 years but I too had the same feelings, especially in November with the holidays coming up and all). “But that urgency doesnโ€™t have to be there every day, thatโ€™s something else I learned. Some days my brain just needs to take time off from the story, to let things gel and to move forward the next time I try to write.” YES, exactly. I love that we both learned so much, Lisa. And indeed: GO US!

  4. Natalie Hart says:

    How thrilling, to be lost in/drunk on your story. Amen for NaNo if it brought you that!


    And you’re oh-so-WRITE that “we all write in our own way, our own time.” Some of us are Speedy Gonzales, while others are slower than a herd of turtles in a jar of peanut butter!

    What matters is the outcome, not the speed at which we arrived.

    • THANK YOU!! I agree with you, Laurie: “What matters is the outcome, not the speed at which we arrived.” And I’d addโ€ฆ the outcome is self-defined, so in essence, we must merely please ourselves ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks again for your support and encouragement!!

  6. Wynn Collins says:

    Yippeeee! You did it! I love that not only did you get your 50,000 words down, but that you’re in the thick of it with your characters. Honestly, I’m so inspired by you and others that I just might do my own NaNo-ing in December. I feel like the novel I’m working on is slipping away from me. I’ve got to figure out a way to get it back.

    • Thank you for your YIPPEEEE (and for your visit to my blog!), Wynn! But more than that, I’m so happy that you are inspired to think about a NaNo December! You sound just like I did before I started NaNoWriMo and it really helped. Here’s hoping it will help you, too.

  7. Barb Riley says:

    Congratulations, Julia! I loved NaNo (did it once in 2010). It was exactly what I needed to FORCE me to stick with my story. I had the same thing happen as you… I reached my 50K before I wrote “The End” (in fact, I think I even finished the 50K in less than 30 days… possibly 23 if my memory serves correct). It was a great month, and I really miss the enthusiasm for my writing that I had during that time. The story I wrote then is still the story I have lingering in my heart today, and one of these days I will polish it and submit it for publication, but it’s not the right timing for everything else that’s been going on in my life.

    Always, always be thankful for something that brings back the magic of storytelling! It is a gift to be treasured!

    Happy Thanksgiving to you, my friend!

    • Barb!! So good to “see” you! I *thought* I remembered you telling me about your NaNo experience, but I wasn’t sure, so I’m very glad you refreshed my memory. It is a great thing, the rising enthusiasm, the thrill of it all. And I have no doubt you’ll get back to that story you love. I am so thankful for the gift of the story, it truly is to be treasured. Happy Thanksgiving to you, too, my friend!

  8. Hooray for you Julia! I’m happy to hear that NaNo got you out of the rut and into the fast lane. Sometimes I actually visualize a rut like the kind old wagon wheels used to make on muddy roads!

    Everyone has to write in his/her own way at his/her own speed. Keep up the momentum!

    • I love the visualization of the rut to help get out. I actually may use that since I frequently use physical manifestation of words to help me get things done. And along those lines, I think I’ll visualize myself as a speeding locomotive that can’t slow down. F=MA ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Laura Ehlers says:

    Yay! And Congratulations!! Never mind those nay-sayers. Finishing the rough draft -no matter how long or short it takes is awesome!! I would recommend leaving it alone for several weeks before you edit (once you are finished) it helps with perspective.
    Once again-WooHoo!!

  10. Nina says:

    Nothing like being lost in the writing–that’s dreamlike trance John Gardner describes in the Art of Fiction (I think that’s the name of his book.)

    Congrats on the big finish BEFORE Thanksgiving. Well done!

    • Thank you, Nina! I haven’t read John Gardner’s book, but now I want to. As for a pre-Thanksgiving finish, that honestly was one of my goals. I always worried about NaNo because of the chance it would interfere with the holiday. Thanks again!

  11. Erika Marks says:

    Cheers to you, my friend! What a great dose of inspiration for all of us! There is such joy in getting lost in our stories–and while it may interrupt our sleep, it certainly can be a trade-off for a great novel. I love how you point out that NaNo worked for you because too often we get fixated on what HAS to work and what doesn’t–the key to our personal success as writers, IMO, is to find that which works for us and run with it–and you did, lady! Congratulations!!

    • THANK YOU, Erika! I agree with this wholeheartedly: “the key to our personal success as writers, IMO, is to find that which works for us and run with itโ€ฆ” And isn’t it so interesting that what works one time may not work another? The excitement of the job!

  12. Good for you, Julia! Ahead of schedule, even. It’s wonderful to hear your excitement and pumped-upness about your project. It occurs to me that (oftentimes) when we are working toward a worthy goal, challenges arise (i.e., smashed fingers) that threaten to derail us. By overcoming them and moving forward, we gain ground that we might not have had otherwise.

    Hope that wasn’t too woo-woo. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Anyway…thanks for the inspiration, and good luck as you keep movin’ on!

  13. Eliza says:

    Congrats, Julia!!! Such an achievement! And so very inspiring for me. Can’t wait to read this story ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. HUGE congrats, Julia!!! I knew you’d do it ๐Ÿ™‚ I can’t wait to hear more about your story as you near completion of this draft and then the edits!

    Even though NaNo didn’t work for me exactly the way I hoped it would (I’m nowhere near those 50k) I’m so happy I did it, because it helped me start a story that might’ve taken me months to start, and now I’m excited to keep going. I don’t understand the judgement that surrounds NaNo. There really is no right or wrong way to write a novel (the only wrong way is by never starting).

    • THANK YOU, Natalia! You and Lisa Kramer really got the ball rolling for me in a month that I really needed it so I owe you a debt of gratitude. I love that you were inspired by NaNo too — I had that very same thing happen to me last year and it led to one of the best ideas *I* think I ever had, so I’m excited for you. And as you say, there is no right or wrong way to start a novel, it’s all part of the exciting cloud of mystery in this work, isn’t it?

  15. Shew! You’re sure a winner in my book, Julia! Congrats…can’t wait to hear more about this war-time novel!


  1. […] find me in revision and editing mode. The manuscript I (almost) finished during NaNoWriMo is now just about at first draft stage. Iโ€™m doing a read through, and while I do I have my favorite editing pen close at hand: a magenta […]