Bridget Barnsley is a first year student from Connecticut, with plans to be a Creative Writing major. Bridget works at the library and is on the Oxford College golf team. She has been an active participant for four years in National Novel Writing Month, even using her experiences with NaNoWriMo to help with her college application essay! Below are her explanation and reflections on NaNoWriMo.
National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, happens every year during the month of November. Thousands of people try to write 50,000 words of their novel within the 30 days of November. This equates to about 1,667 words every day to finish on time. Many people join together to participate in “writing sprints” — where you specify an amount of time to write and attempt to write as many words as you can within that given time, or “write ins” — where people come together and write in one place. These events focus on the idea that it is better to write badly and have the words down than to not write anything at all. It makes people forget about continuously editing because they must hit the word count goals if they want to finish on time. There is a great sense of community throughout the month because writers can make friends online who are also participating and track each others’ progress.
I am very proud of the many times I have participated in NaNoWriMo, so when it came time for me to apply for college I wrote about how hard it is to continue with something for that long. There are times in the middle where you feel hopeless and as if you will never finish, but once you push through and reach the end it is the best feeling in the world. I thought it was a unique way of storytelling, and it tells a lot about me because it helped to cement my desire to become a Creative Writing major. Below is my essay:
Work In Progress
The blank page, an artist’s worst nightmare. I stare at it, wanting to fill it with complex characters and intricate plot lines. It taunts me with the possibilities and struggles awaiting me. The start of a novel seems like the easiest part.
Word Count: 0
Midnight strikes. Thousands of National Novel Writing Month participants begin to write. My fingers fly across the keyboard as fast as humanly possible, trying to get every thought down. My smile widens as I create Ethan whose chocolate hair and intelligent mind begin to jump off the page while the plot takes shape.
Word Count: 5,000
Ideas constantly pop into my head; I pull out my phone or a piece of paper to write them down before they leave me. I’m writing everywhere; the bus, school, the bathroom, the golf course. Life outside my novel becomes unimportant.
Word Count: 10,000
Ethan is figuring out what he’s supposed to do after growing wings overnight. Alex, the unknown villain, has mysteriously joined him and could take Fiona, Ethan’s girlfriend, away from him. I’m as intrigued to decide what will happen as a reader would be curious.
Word Count: 12,500
I have ideas, but lack motivation to continue. I lie in bed, not wanting to write. It’s difficult to do the same thing every day, so I don’t. I flip on Netflix instead.
Word Count: 25,000
I force myself to continue writing just a few more words and soon enough, thousands have been added. Ethan is pushing through his training, and he keeps improving. My thoughts drift, imagining what it’ll be like when I make it to the end of my novel. I’ve written half of my goal. I’ve gotten this far.
Word Count: 33,000
Writing, writing, writing. I’ve locked myself away from the world to focus on finishing my novel. I have to complete it.
Word Count: 35,000
I go back to staring at the wall. I’m almost finished, but it’s hard to figure out how Ethan’s battle against Alex will climax; he can’t put it off forever. Head in my hands, I search my life for inspiration, but nothing fits. I hear the constant ticking of the clock on the wall across from where I sit at the dining room table.
Word Count: 35,100
Why did I choose to write a novel? I wanted some finished product. What I’m writing isn’t great. I should stop. Maybe if I just write a few more words today, it won’t be so bad.
Word Count: 45,000
Thankfully, my ideas have started to flow back, and I’m almost at the finish line. If I had stopped, I never would have reached the point where my love for my story has returned. I’ve made it this far. I’m so close to having a completed novel that I can almost feel the hand gripping my heart releasing me back to reality.
Word Count: 50,000
I end with a cliffhanger, an opening for me to continue the world. I sigh in relief as I type the final words, barely able to keep my eyes open. When I close my eyes to blink, I have to make a conscious effort to open them again to stare at the page in front of me, shining as bright as the sun. My hands feel like I’ve played a thousand rounds of golf. I’ve spent many sleepless nights composing this novel, and it’s finally finished. I admire the work I’ve done as I flip through pages and pages filled with writing; they’re a physical representation of the hard work I put into my novel throughout November. Nothing is ever really perfect, is it? But, I was able to push past days of self-doubt to complete a novel. I’ve finally written a novel, my novel, in 30 days.
Now it’s time to start editing.