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The Race to Write

Anna Podborny, Crown Writer and Photographer

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Writing 50,000 words in 30 days seems like an unachievable task. Who would ever want to challenge themselves to write a whole novel, let alone add on a time restraint? Well, in 2017, over 400,000 people around the world tried to complete their own novels, and the number grows each year. National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is a worldwide race to write a novel in just one month. It takes place throughout the month of November, and this year, I decided to take on the challenge.

I have been a writer since I was a child. I would create fantastical worlds and characters, each coming alive on the page and through my words. The idea of writing a novel hit me in seventh grade when my English teacher pointed out my passion and talent for the task. Up to this point, I had written only poetry and fictional short stories, but I decided then and there that I would, one day, complete and publish my own book.

I tried over and over again to get the story just right, but it never seemed to work out. The words escaped me when I needed them most, characters fled from my creative intellect, and whole worlds disappeared without even making it to the page. I would hit around 5,000 words and give up. When I discovered NaNoWriMo last year, I figured it would be more of the same: I would pump myself up for the first few days and pages, and then fall flat. But I tried anyway. Call me clairvoyant; I got to 4,500 words and the story plateaued.

I forgot about writing for a while, more worried about applying for colleges and getting schoolwork done than being an author. My passion was rekindled during the Variety Show last school year. I had the wonderful opportunity to be an emcee for the show, which allowed me to write skits and channel my creative side once again. I vowed to participate in NaNoWriMo for a second time and spent all summer fleshing out a story, ensuring that I would succeed. The process was long and slow-going, but I knew that I’d be thankful for the preparation when I actually began writing (looking back on it now, I can confirm that creating a storyboard out of over 50 notecards was the best idea).

November rolled around and I began my journey. Day one, I punched out over 3,000 words. I was feeling pretty good about it, but I knew that being overly ambitious would ruin my chances for success. I slowed down a bit and continued through the first week, writing steadily.

Surprise, week two hit and I realized that there was absolutely no way I would have time to work on my novel. Musical auditions were coming up, I had scholarships to apply to, and nearly every weekend I was either visiting a college or writing an essay. I was disappointed by the lack of time, but I still tried to write at every chance I got.

Weeks three and four went pretty much the same. I was behind on my word count. But I wasn’t upset about anything that I had written – I hit over 10,000 words halfway through, which is the farthest I had gotten on any work of creative writing to that point. I was proud of what I had accomplished, even if I was behind my goal.

Of course, there were people in my life who impacted this journey. Although I kept the fact that I was participating in NaNoWriMo to myself and a few select individuals, I still received assistance from many people, even if they didn’t realize it. One of the most helpful (even if he didn’t know about it until day 29) was Mr. Widzisz, an English teacher at Marian. Widzisz shares a passion for writing, stating, “I subscribe to some of the traditional notions that art and writing do communicate something very human. There is something about expressing oneself through writing, the contemplation of the right word, and trying to communicate experiences that writing affords us.” I would definitely agree that the process of writing a novel was a time for introspection and self-awareness, rather than just throwing words onto a page. One of the greatest stumbling blocks I came across in the process was the desire to backtrack and revise what I had already written. However, one of the goals of NaNoWriMo is to just get the words down, finish the first draft, then revise. Widzisz found this method interesting and perhaps useful: “What this overcomes in a certain sense is that it just gets you writing… We are ready to say that a baseball player will get better at throwing a ball or swinging a bat through repetition. But people are reluctant to allow the same argument for a writer. And I think what makes good writers is repetition.” And really, that’s the essence of what NaNoWriMo is: write every day, stick to a schedule, repeat, repeat, repeat.

One of the few people I confided in about my journey through NaNoWriMo was former Marian student, Casey Wells (’18). One week into the month, he sent me an article titled “21 Things To Do When You Get Stuck During NaNoWriMo” and halfway through, he texted me some words of encouragement and advice to spur me along. We even had a midnight text conversation on November 30th, celebrating this creative achievement. I can confidently say that Wells, along with everyone else who assisted me throughout the month, was instrumental in the writing process.

I finished NaNoWriMo with 20,033 words, far below the original goal of 50,000 but still proud of the feat. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to complete the work before the new year and spend the next few months editing and revising. Who knows what will happen after that… just keep your eyes peeled for my name on a book cover someday.

 

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Anna Podborny, Crown Writer & Photographer

Hello, I'm Anna Podborny. I'm a senior this year at Marian. I participate in Madrigals and Theatre Club, which allow me to connect with my passions of...

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