My First NaNo
Written by
Mercy B. Taylor
April 2013
Written by
Mercy B. Taylor
April 2013

Before 2009 I hadn’t finished a draft. Before 2009 I hadn’t written more than 100 pages, so why did I become obsessed with writing a 50,000 word novel with National Novel Writing Month you ask? Because I wanted to see if I had what it took to be a writer. Like many new writers I didn’t consider myself one, in my mind you had to complete a draft to be able to carry that title, so that zeal took me on one of the best experiences that I have had as a writer… writing a novel half-sleep. I never want to do that again, however, I am writing better because of my experiences that year.

The Last Week of October

The week before November I came up with a brand new story. Normally I spend months planning a story before I write it. I usually conduct research and brainstorm a lot but for NaNo that year I didn’t feel like writing any of my developed material so instead a new character introduced himself to me. I spent that week going over the idea and getting down character names and locations I thought I might need and even looked up some old Germanic laws for the story. Everything was in place and I was ready to begin.


As the month started I got busy and before I realized it two weeks went by. A whole two weeks went by and I hadn’t started yet! I panicked. I cried. I berated and belittled myself. Finally I logged in to see how many words I should have written and began to calculate. I was nuts but determined, I wanted to win and so I set one of the most intense writing schedules for myself that I have ever followed. I made a calendar and wrote every night for the next two weeks for a total of 13 1/2 hours a night. And just when I was in the middle of the story tragedy struck.

One evening I looked up to find the ambulance parked on in front of my house; they were there for my neighbor across the street. Michele had been one of the first people to welcome my family and I when we first moved into our house earlier that year. She had invited me over for Saturday night movies and I quickly grew to count her has a friend and baked for her almost every week. But I didn’t know that she was sick.

The paramedics had to break into her house from the sliding door connected to her bed room and that is were I found myself, staring at her pale face. Her blue lips franticly forming words, I realized that she was having trouble breathing. At some point I do remember being told to contact her father while she was taken to the hospital. My parents spent hours on the phone trying to track down her father and late the next day we received word that she died not long after arriving at the hospital. She was alone, her parents had gotten there too late. I cried for two days. I cried and I wrote.

Death is one of those things that you can’t explain no matter how many ways you describe it, because its different when it happens to someone you know, someone you care about. I wrote on at that point because I needed a distraction, I found that I was beginning to feel detached from everything.

To be honest I don’t even remember writing most of the contents in the draft, what I remember is feeling cold and sleepy and confused for the most part but somehow that got me through. Every morning that followed I reviewed my plot like crazy before I went to sleep. For those two week I slept, ate and breathed that story until I wast finally relieved of my burden on the 30th. I am proud to say that I finished my draft at a little over 53,000 words, but my victory was over shadowed by Michele’s passing. I celebrated with sleep. She was in her early 40’s.

The Lesson I Learned

Like so many others National Novel Writing Month taught me that I had more than just a desire to write, I realized that I had the drive to be a writer not just a dreamer. NaNo taught me that when I am determined I can do things that I thought were otherwise impossible and never to underestimate myself.

NaNo also helped me move on, it gave me an escape without sacrificing my sanity; without it I think I might have gone into depression.

And then Michele taught me something. I remember the last conversation that I had with her a week before she died. She told me to write, to dream and release my work so others could read it, she had wanted to be apart of the number of readers that would pick up my novels and tuck into a brand new adventure… and now, more than ever I wish I had written a draft earlier than November so she could have read my work.

Currently I have yet to write the second draft of that novel but I know that on a skill level that it taught me about craft. On a life level it taught me not to take my days for granted.

The novel I wrote is titled Promised and one of these days I will get around to editing it and when the book finally gets published it will be dedicated to Michele. I miss you, mon amie.

May He lead your steps and mine,

“Like as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities them that fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children.”
Psalm 103:13-17

Original Post: My First NaNo @ thePennedChronicle

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