The Siren Song of November

National Novel Writing MonthIt’s been a while since I’ve been so excited about November. Yes, I know it’s only the middle of October, but today is the day that National Novel Writing Month opened it’s site for this year’s novels.

I did my first NaNoWriMo in 2001, just  two months after 9/11. I’d heard about the challenge the previous year at a holiday party, just days into December. I knew I would be writing with them when November came around again.

That year–their third annual–there were only about 500 participants. In October I got onto the forums to connect with other writers in my area. A couple of us met once a week in a bookstore coffee shop to crank out words and commiserate. The experience was liberating and empowering. I finished my novel, Wake, on November 30th at 50,057 words.

In 2002, I became the local Municipal Liaison for the Silicon Valley chapter, organizing write-ins, throwing kick-off, half-way, and TGIO parties. I got to know the founder, Chris Baty. I finished my second novel, Anatomy.

In 2003, I took over the ML program, organizing more than 300 Municipal Liaisons across the globe, providing press release templates, wrangling giveaway mailings, and providing advice on how to handle difficult participants and inspire those who needed it. I also founded a sister program, National Novel Editing Month, to help writers take their novels from draft to done. And I still managed to finish my book, Glass Cases.

In 2004, I moved to San Francisco, leaving my Silicon Valley group in the hands of others, and though I was still involved, coordinating cross-region writing events and challenges, life got in the way. Between an expanded work schedule and buying a house, I didn’t finish my novel. I also handed off the Editor-in-Chief position for National Novel Editing Month to someone else.

I was away from NaNoWriMo for five years, returning in 2010 for another win with my novel, The Herbal Companion. I had planned to do the same in 2011, but a cross-country move from San Francisco to Santa Fe sapped my concentration, and another novel met the end of November incomplete. In 2013, I decided to change my approach, writing 350 words 3 times a week, but again fell short with just over 21,000 words and no end in sight.

It’s easy to say this year will be different, but what I’m really hoping for is for it to be the same. The same as those first three years when the writing came easy, words flowing from my pen like someone else was writing them. The same as when I had a community of writers, scratching or clicking away beside me as we sat on thick-cushioned couches at the back of our favorite coffee shop until closing, writing each other into our stories. Sharing giant oatmeal cookies, drinking warm coffees or vanilla steamers.

Moving to a new town can, at first, take the wind out of your sails. But it only takes a few people to get you sailing again. Now, armed with my small cadre of writers, I am aching for the first cold days of November after the last haunted night of October during which, at 12:00 midnight I will scratch out the first, well-rehearsed lines of my 2014 November novel, the one that has been, is, building pressure within me longing for its release.