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Karen Allendoerfer

NaNoWriMo, or why I won't be blogging any more this month

November 2, 2012 at 8:43 PM

About 6 years ago, I embarked on a big creative project: I started playing the violin and viola again. I hadn't played in years and had essentially given it up when my kids were born. When I started playing again, it was with the ostensible purpose to help my then-7-yo daughter, who had started taking Suzuki lessons and was struggling with them. I wasn't really sure where it would lead. That's also when I started this blog. I thought of it as an exercise in accountability, like a running buddy (if I actually ran): if you tell someone about it, you're less likely to just bag out of doing it altogether. And you can get encouragement and support.

This year I've decided to embark on another creative project, something big and a little crazy, and I don't know where it will lead either. NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, happens every year during the month of November. Participants are encouraged to write 50,000 words during the month, or 1667 words per day. The accountability or buddy system is an important part of NaNoWriMo. We got an email instructing us to "Make sure your family, friends, neighbors, pets, the nice check-out lady at the store, and your mail delivery person, all know that you are writing a novel this month." So, here I am.

I also have my daughter for inspiration, again. Last year she did the Young Writers' Program of NaNoWriMo with her 7th grade English teacher. And she wrote 50,000 words--a lot of that over the Thanksgiving holidays. I messed around a little bit to support her, but I didn't even come close to that total. I'm hoping this year will be different. The biggest difference is that I'm not working full-time for pay right now, the way I was last year. I retired from my job as an academic project manager, and I'm taking a break while I consider what I want to do next, something related to science education and outreach.

I realize as I write, how much of a role this violin blog has ended up playing in the novel so far. The novel is imagined as young adult fantasy/science fiction, set later this century. One of the main characters, named Hallie, is a 12-year-old aspiring fiddler, but indifferent student and practicer. She has trouble with focus and goals and authority. But she's very smart, and has a big heart, which also fuels her music.

She and her friends and family are involved in a futuristic version of another one of my hobbies, geocaching, which I also blogged about a couple of years ago. In geocaching, you get coordinates from a website and search for a box of "treasure" where you can sign in. Sometimes you have to solve a puzzle to find the cache, and these puzzles can get rather elaborate.

As I said, the novel takes place in the future. I had, as part of the backstory, imagined refugees, one of whom is Hallie's mother, fleeing a flooded Manhattan and settling further inland, in Western New York, where the main action of the story takes place. Until this week, I had thought of this part as being far in the future, a proper setting for a fantasy or science fiction novel. Not the part that I would have wanted to come true.

With the writing, so far, so good, in that I've exceeded the word total for each of the first two days. But I also know this is the easy part. I already planned out this part of the novel and know where it is going. I also have a pretty clear vision for the last scene of the novel, which will probably be an epilogue. But I'm really not sure about the last third. I've always had trouble tying up loose ends and bringing them to a satisfying resolution, and this problem has hampered my creative efforts in a number of areas. I've never finished a novel before. I don't know what that feels like.

But I do think, now here at the beginning, that the ending will also have something to do with music. With the ability of music to connect people, and to help them find what they are searching for, and to bring them home.


From Diana Dow
Posted on November 3, 2012 at 4:45 AM
Sounds like a major undertaking. I look forward to hearing how you succeeded in your goal.
From Tom Holzman
Posted on November 3, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Good luck Karen! Keep us updated on your progress. We will miss your blogs.

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