In August 2003, my pregnancy turned complicated. The long hours confined to a hospital bed, where I faced the realization that one of us might not survive my daughter’s birth, fired my determination to write something – finish something, publish something – before I died.
Luckily, my daughter and I both pulled through. I did my first Nanowrimo that November, when my colicky preemie was two months old. Not surprisingly, I crashed and burned before the month was out. I wasn’t getting much sleep and could barely rub two thoughts together, but it didn’t matter. Any work I did was work that hadn’t existed before. I took pride in getting anything done at all.
I worked on that book, The Dangerous Type, on and off for years. I also kept attempting Nanowrimo. Some years I won, but most years I didn’t. In the meantime, I found an agent, who sold a collection of essays I’d edited to Scribner. When I finally finished The Dangerous Type, I showed it to my agent. She wasn’t interested in dark space opera. It didn’t matter. I loved the characters and wanted to play more in their galaxy. I used the 2012 Nanowrimo to write a sequel.
In 2013, I told a local small press editor about my space operas. He’d just started working for a bigger house in Manhattan. He asked to see The Dangerous Type. Two weeks later, he asked to see the Nanowrimo draft of the sequel. Then he asked if I could put together an outline for a third book. He’d told the publisher they should offer me a three-book deal.
I began writing that third book in February 2015. Using skills I’d learned during all my Nanowrimos – breaking the work down into a daily word count, hacking away at that word count every spare moment, writing in a notebook in bed before I turned the light out, typing that hand-scrawled material in first thing in the morning, plotting during long walks in the sunshine, writing in the car before I picked my daughter up from school, plowing ahead no matter what – I turned in the final, polished draft of the book five months later.
All three books – The Dangerous Type, Kill By Numbers, and No More Heroes – were published by Night Shade Books in 2015. All three of them contain an author photo taken by Ken Goudey at the Night of Writing Dangerously (the Nanowrimo fundraiser) in 2012.
I am so indebted to Nanowrimo. Thirteen years ago, I was a wannabe novelist who’d published short stories and essays, but hadn’t completed a longer work. Now I have four novels and a collection of my own essays out on a variety of presses – all of them honed by participating in the National Novel Writing Month.
What can you accomplish?
If you’re in San Francisco, I’ll be hosting a Nanowrimo write-in once again on every Friday night in November from 6-8 at Borderlands Cafe on San Francisco’s Valencia Street. The write-ins are free, except for the price of your beverage from the cafe. Come get some work done in the presence of other authors.
Feel free to make me a buddy on the Nanowrimo site, too. I’m MorbidLoren.