I love the month of November so much, I named my newest puppy November (Nova for short) although she was born in October. My birthday’s in November, you see?, and as a child growing up in the Southern Hemisphere, the best things happened during this magical month. The weather finally warmed up, and the best strawberries were for sale on every corner verdulería. As if the sweet scent of fresh strawberries weren’t enough, the perfume of blooming jasmine intoxicated me with possibility. It must have been that it was the last stretch of the year (our school calendar actually matches the year calendar. School ends in December), and I felt like in this, the most magical month of the year, I could do anything.
When I moved to Utah, one of the greatest shocks was that my birthday was now in the Fall and not Spring! Not only that, but after the Christmas holidays school resumed (before Three Kings day! Blasphemy).
I’ve always been a writer, and had fantasized with writing a novel. Some day. I was already out of college, and the mother of four, when I heard about NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. The basic premise of this now worldwide event is to challenge yourself to write a fifty-thousand word manuscript in 30 days (see how it works here). It was November 6, and knowing the odds were slightly against me because I’d never written this much in such a short period of time, I signed up anyway. I’m happy to report that I achieved my goal, and after typing THE END, I felt a high like no other. I was hooked on writing forever.
This November, I’ll write my eleventh NaNo manuscript. A Master of Fine Arts in Writing, several literary awards, publications, and late-night writing sessions with a fantastic community of friends later, I’m thrilled that once again, November will start and I’ll challenge myself to finish what I now think is impossible.
Last year I wrote on the official NaNo blog about three main things I learned through the years:
- I can do hard things
- Writing is a process of discovery and surprises
- Writing in community is a powerful experience.
You can read the whole post here. But my main message today is this: use NaNoWriMo to your advantage. There are a few NaNo rules (start a new manuscript and only include words that you write in November), but I don’t have the freedom to do that this year. My schedule is full to the brim with deadlines, and I need to finish three manuscripts: a YA contemporary I want to send on submission by March, and two middle grades (one of which is a super-secret project I hope to announce soon). The minimum word count for NaNo is approximately 1,667. I write way more than that every day. In fact, I do a NaNo every month. But November is special. There’s an electric charge in the air. Think about all the people in the world typing with abandon! (or yoked to an outline, but still).
For some people, writing this amount of words in thirty days is daunting endeavor. Set your own goal then. If you can’t write every day, dedicate a few days of the week just for writing. Free that story waiting inside you. Let it out in the world.
As for me, I’m going to lasso the energy floating around and finish the year with a bang. Who else is with me?
Yamile (prounounced sha-MEE-lay) Saied Méndez is an immigrant writer and reader, a dreamer and fighter, a Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA graduate, a 2014 New Visions Award Honor Winner, and one the 2015 Walter Dean Myers Inaugural Grant recipients. Born and raised in Rosario, Argentina (cradle of fútbol), she now lives in Alpine, Utah with her husband, five children, and three dogs, but her heart is with her family scattered all over the world. Find her on twitter: @YamileSMendez and online: yamilesmendez.com.