Let’s write a novel


I’m writing a novel. I’ve been writing a novel for six years now. multiple novels. Some I’ve abandoned. Some I’ve stuck away with the intention of getting back to…when I can find the time.

And therein lies the problem. I’m not going to ever find the time. The time has to be created.

The last time I did NaNoWriMo Mia was two years old. The November after that I was working a miserable job that sucked the energy out of me. the November after that I was pregnant and sick. The November after that I had twin babies. We also took Mia to New York the week before Thanksgiving and we had family visiting the week of Thanksgiving, so I didn’t even attempt it. And I just spaced it last November (I also had one-year-old twins but I can’t play the twin card forever).

Okay, stop. That right there is why I have multiple novels started but not one full-length manuscript to speak of. Excuses. And, sure, some of them are good excuses but no matter which way I look at them, they’re still excuses.

I’m always going to feel pulled in twenty different directions. I’m always going to feel guilty for carving out time for writing. There will always be something more pressing, more demanding, more obligatory. So where does passion fall in line?

That one month that I did NaNoWriMo was probably the most productive I’ve ever been in terms of getting a full-length novel on paper. No matter the mess of a draft I was creating, it was a draft with fully realized characters, a solid plot, emerging subplots and themes…Okay, it probably (definitely) didn’t have all of these, but it was on its way to having all of them. They were all faintly sketched between the words I strung together when I wrote without over-thinking it. I had a daily goal, and I met that goal, and it didn’t matter that my words were clumsy, my plot haphazard, my characters two-dimensional. I had faith in the process of writing, in just getting the idea down; that “the first draft of anything is shit” (Hemingway), but the only way to the end — and THE END — is to get through it. I don’t think I’m alone when I admit that one of my biggest obstacles as a writer is losing faith in myself when that momentum of the beginning slides into doubt and frustration by the middle.

And now, finally, I am ready to get back to attempting a novel on NaNoWriMo’s terms — more ready than I’ve been since the first time I attempted it. Not only am I ready but I need to do this. It’s more than just satisfying some creative urge. It’s an attempt to shake this feeling that I’m not worthy, not capable, not good enough; that not only do I not have the time, but I don’t have the right to readjust priorities to make this happen. Because when I dig deep enough, that’s really been what’s been stopping me. Not new babies, or dishes, or laundry, or trips, or holidays with family. It’s the feeling that I don’t have the right to do this.

But I can make this happen. I can and I will.

writing a novel

It will take discipline, and organization, and determination, and a fierce push to carry on when I let doubt get the best of me. But I’m choosing to prioritize passion.

Annnnnd…then I remembered that I will be on deadline for two projects come November.


I know! I’ll tweak the rules. That’s allowed right? Rules were made to be broken and all that?

So, I’ve decided to stretch NaNoWriMo. My projects start at the end of October and go through December, so after crunching numbers and variables (just kidding. I don’t do math), I’ve decided to start noveling October 1 (I know “noveling” is not an actual word but I hardly think I’m the first to coin it). I’m giving myself until midnight on New Year’s Eve to complete a first draft. That’s three months, which doesn’t sound like much of a challenge when juxtaposed with NaNoWriMo’s ambitious one-month goal, but three months with looming deadlines and three kids sounds like a lofty enough goal to me. I’m proclaiming it publicly to raise the stakes of the game, to declare my commitment to do whatever it takes and hold myself accountable.

I’m also declaring it publicly to ask you to join me. No really, will you? I’d love to have you along on this journey with me. I’ll be posting updates a few times a week on my progress, and you can update us through comments, or links posted in the comments if you’re doing updates on your blog. I’d love to stop by and lurk cheer you on. Together we can share tips and strategies, ask questions, be sounding boards, etc. (I’m still going to play along with NaNoWriMo, mostly so I don’t miss out on those pep talks by well-known authors.)

Already I feel the weight lifting in just declaring my intentions, my goal. This clarity of thought preempts the messy, challenging days ahead, I’m sure. But for now I choose to revel in it. Choosing passion over obligation feels freeing.


25 thoughts on “Let’s write a novel

  1. Arphaxad says:

    Go for it!

    Get yourself a nice status bar that shows your progress so that we visitors can quickly check your progress and give you support.


    Essentially I am doing a similar thing to you. The only difference is that I am going to attempt to do the 50k words in November to participate in NaNo, but I am starting now to build the plot and create the characters. Then I don’t plan on stopping at 50k in November and estimate I will need another 30k-50k in December to finish my story.

    Good luck and God speed

    • Lara Dotlich Anderson says:

      Thanks for the tip on the status bar! I’ll put one up soon! I too have realized that I’ll need to spend some time on plot development and character sketches before I let the story take off. Good luck and keep me posted on your progress!

  2. kayfroebel says:

    “(I also had one-year-old twins but I can’t play the twin card forever).” -Lara
    Yeah… you kind of can, at least I think so! Kids are time consuming… And I totally get how you feel about a) the job sucking the life out of you (have it, plus a 2 hr commute each way)… and the bit about feeling guilty to write. I know that when ever I want to read or write, I suddenly feel so ashamed because I already spend 95% of my time away from my kids, and now I am about to leave (mentally) again? It’s a struggle and thus only read or write while I am a.) at work, or b.) kids are sleeping. Which stinks because its like having a severely part-time passion.

    • Lara Dotlich Anderson says:

      Kay, thanks for letting me know I still have the right to play the twin card. 🙂 In a lot of ways they’re more demanding now, at 2 yrs old, than they were as infants. I am doing the bulk of my writing early in the morning before my kids wake up and a little at night after I put them to bed, which helps to alleviate a lot of the guilt I’ve felt before when I’ve tried to pursue this passion. However, I’ve noticed that even when I’m not writing, my thoughts are with my characters and their story, so it’s a challenge to remain focused and present during the day. And I totally know what you mean about having a severely part-time passion. Now that I’m putting writing first, my other passions (reading, working out, blogging/reading blogs) have become part-part-time and it stinks, but I also know that I’m not at a point in my life right now where I can indulge in all of them all the time, so for now I choose writing. xx

      • kayfroebel says:

        Well when you dish out that bestseller, I will he first in line to buy! Seriously. I hate e-books. I’m a hold-the-book fan. I wish I could make my full time job being a writer. Literally have an office — located OUT of the home because even if you go into another room, the kids follow mommy– where I can just go for a few hours and seriously focus on writing. What a nice dream… 🙂

  3. Cecilia says:

    A blogger friend of mine occasionally profiles accomplished mother-writers and I wonder if this might help in terms of some inspiration: http://mothereseblog.com

    I think that planning for it and then (especially) publicly stating it is huge, and I think it’s wise to adjust the rules in a way that will make the project more feasible for you. My writing goals are much lazier though I have been tempted more than once by NaNoWriMo…(my excuse is also timing – why November?? My work is busiest then.). They’ve since come out with a blogger’s version of NaNo, and I might attempt that…don’t know yet, but your post has given me something to think about.

  4. tjhavens08 says:

    Your post has inspired me to pick up on a novel I started earlier this year. I got so caught up in making my first draft perfect that I discouraged myself. I am just going to let it flow and release the story that has been building up in me these months! Good luck to you!

  5. Heidi says:

    Aside from the multiple drafts of novels, I could have written this. I’m too petrified to even begin a novel that I swear I have in me. The enormity of it has been enough for me to believe that I, too, do not have the write to even begin. Thank you for the reminder that we do have the right. Because we believe we can.

  6. now at home mom says:

    Congratulations and Good Luck Lara! I’m very happy for you! very happy that you are doing this for yourself and that you set a date too 🙂
    I will make sure to read every time you update your blog about it! 🙂
    I know how difficult it can be with 1 child and cannot imagine writing a novel with 3 but I’m sure you will succeed. Good luck! 🙂

    • Lara Dotlich Anderson says:

      Thanks, Ingrid! I just hopped over to your blog, and oh my goodness, so much good stuff I need to catch up on! The boys are waking up from naps (sigh) but hopefully I can find a slice of time to get back over this weekend! Thanks as always for reading!

  7. katlaire says:

    I can’t wait to read your progress! I think I may buckle down and join you. I’ve never done NaNoWriMo before and this may be the perfect time to start.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

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