Friday, December 4, 2009

My NaNoWriMo Experience

I’ve had a story swimming through my head since I was on maternity leave. Wanting to put pen to paper, or more appropriately fingers to keyboard, I tried to steal snippets of time here and there. Months go by, I return to work, and the notes I’ve accumulated for this little idea of mine keep building.

November fast approached and I decided to try my hand at National Novel Writing Month. I signed up, hoping to keep pace with the 1667 words I would need to type everyday to reach 50,000 words by the end of November. My story is a melding of Patricia Cornwell’s Scarpetta in terms of science and Charlaine Harris, MaryJanice Davidson in terms of vampires, humor, snark, and a strong heroine.

Everyone should know that I am a novice at fiction. Apart from the assignments I had to do in high school English, I’ve never taken a creative writing class. I read constantly, going through 2 books a week on my commute to and from work. I’m a chemist by training and have written several technical projects, mainly a PhD thesis, a MS dissertation, and several scientific journal articles about my research. All of these works were very specific, outlining my procedures, results, and conclusions. There isn’t much room for interpretation when it comes to the kind of research I’ve done. My degrees are in analytical chemistry and my focus has always been on instrumentation and data collection. My PhD research involved acousto-optic deflectors for background correction with Inductively Coupled Plasma Atomic Emission Spectroscopy. My MS research involved making carbon fiber microelectrodes and Scanning Electrochemical Microscopy to image neurons. Two very large mouthfuls of words, aren’t they?

Several of you were my NaNoWriMo buddies: OnePushyFox, FragileLittleHuman, TrueBloodTwilight, EyesofAmber, and UhYesPlease. Congratulations to Foxy, TrueBloodTwilight, and EyesofAmber for hitting 50,000 words in one month. I finished 14,108 words and FragileLittleHuman probably wrote 50,000 words. She just spread them out amongst Breathe Me and several other stories she’s working on.

While I didn’t get to 50,000 words, I did set a pace that I am happy with. I am gone from home for work 12 hours each weekday. I also have an 8 month old son at home who doesn’t get to see Mommy for very long during the week. Writing at home was out in my book; my job at home is to play, snuggle, bathe, and have fun with my sweet little boy. This left the time I am on a train to and from work for writing. Since I’m pretty dead in the morning from tending to said son, I usually go back to sleep on the way to work. I did encounter Foxy every morning, which got up at 5 am to write her NaNoWriMo novel. She is always super supportive and understands what my life is like, having kids of her own.

I’ve found that I can write 1000 words on a trip home, as long as I’m not distracted by Twitter or the smelly weirdo’s on the train. Some days I did well, other days I just didn’t write. One thing that was detrimental to my progress was my lack of a clear outline. I’m a procrastinator by nature and didn’t plan out my dissertation or thesis too clearly. They were both written in about one month, with several nights of only 3 hours of sleep before returning to school to teach. I'm currently going back and editing the chapters I have written. After I've done this I'm going to construct a clear outline which should help me finish more easily. I won't sit on the train and think "Hmm, what should I write about today?"

I kept my commuting activities a secret. The only people that knew I was participating in NaNoWriMo were the one's I know online. Not one member of my family knew about this, until now. I don't really know why I didn't share that I was doing this. One reason was my fear of failure. Another reason is my tolerance for being asked the same questions repeatedly. If no one knows about it, I won't have to keep asking the same questions over and over again. Therefore I won't want to get stabby.

NaNoWriMo was a good experience. I could have been much more successful. I’m not willing to sacrifice the time I have with my son and family, or my sanity. So I leave you with the synopsis for "The Immortal Drug." I’m still working on it and hope to make significant progress, one commute home at a time. Thank you to everyone for your support. A big thanks to MrsVanquish for reading a little of what I have and thinking I need to continue the story.

"Aubrey Kelly is a senior forensic scientist who analyzes drug evidence for the Federal Drug Agency. Due to a large backlog of evidence she’s forced to take on new responsibilities and additional lab workers whom she is now in charge of. In the current state of economic distress of the United States, drug crimes are exploding. Methamphetamine laboratories are on the rise and a deadly new heroin is appearing on the streets. Is the drug deadly only to the local junkies who then disappear from the morgue? Are the scientists tasked with decoding the pale pink powder’s deadly secret in danger? Little does Aubrey know that secretive and handsome new coworker Conor holds the key to decoding the secrets of the new drug. Will knowing what the powders contain put Aubrey and her best friend in harm’s way?"

Psst...the fabulous lady whose name I got in the Lemon Sister's Secret Santa swap is going to have a big surprise. My main character's best friend is going to be named after her!

Like the Lolcatz for NaNoWriMo? Click this link to see even more.


  1. I commend you for trying and it's really meant to be a catalyst to those who have a story in their head. That's how I see it. So you've won. You penned your thoughts and started your story. That's awesome! Now it's up to you the writer, to find your own pace, and well, we all know that RL always comes first! Congrats for starting!! It sounds great!

  2. You can be super proud of yourself, you have two full time jobs one as a chemist and one as a Mom and wife it's awesome that you managed to write at all!

    I'm super happy you let me read your story and I told you already that I really like it!!! And I need to apologize for not having read the last chapters :((

    I hope you won't give up on this story and let me read the next chapters!
    I bow my head because I love to read but even more I could never imagine writing a story, so you are awesome! You are great, no matter how many words you have written, you shouldn't care, you did it, you started:)

  3. Well done! I've always wanted to write but never have, until I started my fanfic and I've loved every moment of doing it. I'm a stay at home Mum and that's hard enough, I really commend women who fit work in as well, without NaNoWriMo! Your story sounds excellent, good for you and keep working at it :o)

  4. Wow, you make me tired just reading about what you do!


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