Amy Truncale is a self-described “wife and mother in the Bay Area who loves to write and dream.” She dreamed up an amazing story last year, and here she tells us about the experience of writing a book in less time than it takes to make a baby:
Last year I wrote a novel in the month of November during the annual NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I was seven months pregnant and had been stuck on a book I started writing six years before. I hadn’t even looked at it in a couple of years, so I decided to write it over from scratch without referencing the old material in any way. I wanted my original inspiration back.
NaNo sounded challenging, fun, scary, impossible and wonderful, and it inspired me. A door banged open in my soul with the fresh air of possibility. That may sound a bit dramatic, but the thought of doing NaNo made my eyes wide with anticipation. It was an opportunity I had to take. There was another very important reason I wanted to undertake this task at that time. Simply put, I wanted my daughter (still in utero at this point) to have a mother that would model having the courage to do what she loves. That was a powerful motivation for me. I’m wise enough to know that she’s much more likely to do what I do, rather than what I say. So with that arsenal up my sleeve, I set out on a journey of creativity.
As I mentioned previously, I had been stuck in my writing for a long time. I needed to do something different, something I had never tried before. I had employed different techniques to move my writing forward in the past but always seemed to end up in the same place – inertia. I was looking for a new internal paradigm. NaNo happens in the 30 days of every November. Coincidentally, it is said that it takes 30 days to break a bad habit and replace it with a healthier one. I wrote a never-ending river of words last November that created a new mental pathway. The flow of momentum broke through little dams of dry twigs (I’m stuck) and brambles (I don’t know how to do this), rats’ nests (I can’t) and garbage that was previously creating blocks and distractions, making it difficult to write anything. Plus, I gained confidence as I experienced success! The goal was to write 50,000 words, and I did that. It doesn’t say to write 50,000 perfect words that create perfect sentences that make a national bestseller (although that possibility is open to you), it just says 50,000 + new words, period (well, not just random words – but you know what I mean).
In retrospect it still amazes me how easy I was on myself during this process. I always thought taking on a commitment like this would be painful, that I would have to chain myself to the desk and force myself to do it at knife point, sweat beading on my brow. Maybe being pregnant had something to do with this new gentle feeling towards myself. It forced me to slow down and take it easier than I ever had.
All I did each day was read what I had written the day before and then keep going. I did not critique anything. Previously crippled by my perfectionist left brain, I embraced the idea that it could be as bad as it needed to be – and sometimes it really was – but occasionally it was even good. My main goal was to KEEP GOING, not to write well. I had never let myself off the hook this way before. It was more than a revelation. Once I had accomplished the goal of just getting words on the page, I could shift my focus to creating quality through revision.
There are many books on writing on the market. I know because I own quite a few of them. There is some great advice for how to go about writing a book, yet most concede there is no direct ‘how to’ guide. I suppose it’s because of the nature of novel writing; that is, it is a different path for everyone. What Elizabeth Stark has created in her Book Writing Cycle is nothing short of revolutionary, and I have never heard of anything else like it. I honestly could never have done it without the support of this class/group, specifically designed to coincide with NaNoWriMo. It’s a tremendous resource for writers, and I am grateful to be a part of it. Writing a novel is about following your dreams. Whether the path is symbolically straight as an arrow, meandering through meadows or jumping into the abyss with arms stretched like an eagle, all that matters is that you take a step, and then another…