I am now an official NaNoWriMo rebel! Chances are if you are a writer, you know about NaNoWriMo . It’s all about commitment – writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I wasn’t going to participate this year. I didn’t want it to interfere with my memoir writing process. But, I discovered a way around that. I can be a REBEL! Some may say this is cheating but the bottom line is this – there is a NaNo Rebels forum buried in NaNo Groups. That’s the place to confess that you might not be writing the crappy NaNo novel. It is there that I have revealed my quest for this year – I will be revising my memoir. Every hour I spend doing revisions, or writing new chapters, will count as 1,000 words. It’s okay. It’s been approved by the powers that be per the FAQs.
Now I feel the need to make another confession. I have completed NaNoWriMo three times. My 2012 novel, Mayleen, is fiction based on how I wished certain things had worked out in my life. The other two were based on my autobiography. The interesting thing about that is the titles of these previous attempts: Always 49 (2004 – I’ll never grow old) and You Don’t Want to Know (2009 – stuff that probably won’t end up in my final memoir). My current working title is Never Let Them See Your Tears. This is the one that is meant to be published someday. Notice I said “working title.” It’s likely to change again once it is done.
Now that things are a bit more serious, and my current goal is to finish my first draft by the end of the year, I’m taking this opportunity to cheat my way through NaNoWriMo for the month of November. Challenges work for me. So, call me a cheater if you must but it’s much more enticing to be considered a rebel.
If one writing group is good, would two groups be great? I discovered the power of a writing group a dozen years ago when I thought I was ready to write my memoir. The group was warm, welcoming and inspiring. But I wasn’t ready.
Last spring, following an e-mail signature-line link, I discovered a memoir class at a local library – exactly the push I needed. Several classes later I knew I had found the right place, a compassionate group, gentle critique, and a strong coach. Problem is, after eight weeks, the class was over. Eight chapter drafts sat untouched on the edge of my desk for the entire summer. Guilt began to sink in. I couldn’t risk letting another dozen years pass before I picked up the pieces – by then I might be too old. When September came and I found out the class had morphed into an official writer’s group, I grabbed my pink notebook and a couple of my favorite pens and headed to the library.
I am comfortable with this library group. It gives me a safe space to write and share that crappy first draft. I trust and accept the feedback from this group of eight women and one man. Our individual stories may be different but they all peek into the souls within us, all the way down to the soles of our feet.
But I still have that tough inner critic who tells me I am not author material. So I joined a second writing group, one made up of authors (by my definition, writers who have published their words). My thinking – wouldn’t this be the perfect place to take the draft from the memoir group, clean it up, and share with these “professionals?” Two chapters into it, confidence grows with positive encouragement.
Now I begin to reflect. This group is a mix of fiction and memoir writers. There may be some truth in fiction but as I reveal my story to this new audience, I wonder if I have the strength to share the whole truth. And, beyond that, do I really want the world to know? The answer comes. I have a story to tell. The grace to tell one’s experience, strength and hope, gives others the courage to tell their story.