Posts Tagged ‘National Novel Writing Month’


An Update On My NaNo Writing — And Me

   Posted by: Michael Bernier   in Today's Reality

It is almost mid-month, and as I expected I am not on track to complete the annual NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. Instead of being 50% of the way (25,000 words), I am at about 15% (7,400 words). The fact that I am so far behind does not bother me; the subject I selected, writing about Stephen, was destined from the outset to be a labor of love rather than a labor of typing.

I tackled the most difficult piece first, which was the day of his accident and the following day when funeral arrangements were made and I attended a remembrance event at the school’s band hall. I haven’t made it completely through the rest of the days leading up to the funeral yet, but I have outlines of what I plan to write. The reason I have not finished that piece is because my mind began to wander, and I found myself looking back at the day Stephen was born. I recently found a set of pictures taken in the hospital that day, and as I looked through them the memories came flooding back…and I felt compelled to stop where I was and start writing about his birth instead.

As I was writing that section, I discovered something about writing itself that I had never considered before. I have been a technical writer for many years, and the thought process that a technical writer goes through is linear in nature – step 2 always follows step 1, A always comes before B, and so on. Technical writing focuses on the technical aspects of putting words on paper – namely, accuracy and orderly precision – and leaves no room for compromise. In contrast, the creative writing process is not linear at all, but instead is somewhat random in nature. Creative writers focus on feelings and emotions, which like all of human nature are constantly changing shape, flowing and ebbing with the events going on in a person’s life. Accuracy and orderly precision are mostly set aside in favor of expressing what is on the mind or in the heart of the writer. As the writer searches for the right combination of words to use, compromise becomes the rule rather than the exception.

This was a real eye-opener for me. Until now, I had been trying to develop creative writing skills but following the path of a technical writer; the result has been writing that expresses feelings and emotions, but does so in a very stiff and regimented manner. In order to be more successful as a creative writer, I have to follow a different path – one that is more random in its choice of direction, is peppered with spontaneity, and which molds itself to the feelings and emotions I am experiencing at the moment. The result should be writing that flows rather than stutters.

I can think of no better opportunity to put this to work than writing Stephen’s story. It may take longer to produce a finished product, but it will have a heightened level of expression over my previous writings.

And with that, I will now go off and continue working on the story. I do not know exactly what part of Stephen’s life I will be writing about next, but I do know the words will be more meaningful to me and to anyone else who reads them.


It’s NaNoWriMo Time!

   Posted by: Michael Bernier   in Today's Reality

November is NaNoWriMo time. What is that? It stands for National Novel Writing Month, an almost tongue-in-cheek project/competition organized and managed by the whimsically-named “Office of Letters and Light” to encourage writers (and want-to-be writers) to commit words to paper and write those stories they have always wanted to sit down and write “someday”. The goal? To write 50,000 or more words in exactly 30 days (from 12:01am on November 1 to 12:59pm on November 30). The task is very daunting; to stay on track, an average of 1,667 words must be written per day. While that may not sound like a lot, consider that this blog posting is a little more than 550 words…imagine writing about three times as much every single day for 30 days, and you can begin to get a feel for the size of the project.

What is the prize? Apart from some web “badges” and a print-it-yourself certificate, nothing of financial importance (i.e. no cash awards)…but “winners” do have the satisfaction of having finally put those words down, and hopefully the momentum from participating will carry them forward to finish their novels (if they have not already finished by the end of the month). Many participants over the past 10 years of the project have gone on to have their writings published, including some making it onto best-seller lists (for a rundown of this and all the other details, you can visit their website at

Last year was the first time I participated in NaNo (as some people refer to it), and I had the good fortune to “win” (I finished the month with almost 52,000 words, and added more to it in December). My writing was not a true “novel” or work of fiction; instead, it was a form of autobiography I wrote about a very significant period in my life over 20 years ago, written as a favor for a close friend. The book is still being reviewed and edited, and I do not know when or if it will ever be published.

I have plans to participate this November as well, and hope that I will succeed in reaching the goal. My subject this time was originally going to be a fictional story I have had sketched out for several years, but following Stephen’s death in June (has it really been over four months since the funeral?) it became obvious to me that my original idea was not going to fly this time. Instead, I plan to write Steve’s story. I have little doubt I can eventually come up with more than 50,000 words; after all, I have 16 years of material to work with. The question is whether or not I will be able to write it all down in that short timeframe, which will be even shorter because we have made the decision to travel to Georgia for the first time in several years to visit relatives at Thanksgiving. I suppose I can find some time here and there to write while we are “on the road”, but my best course will probably be to write a little extra each day before and after the trip.

And with that, I will now go off and prepare for NaNoWriMo 2010. I probably will not be able to post anything elaborate here while I am off writing, but I will try to at least put up some brief updates on my progress as we move through the month. Wish me luck!