'Tis November, which can mean only one thing...

And I'm not talking about Thanksgiving

The poet Henry David Thoreau wrote about November:

“This is the month of nuts and nutty thoughts — that November whose name sounds so bleak and cheerless — perhaps its harvest of thought is worth more than all the other crops of the year.”

And really, when you get right down to it, two of the things most associated with November have been popularized as nutty, indeed. Of course, I am talking about the Gunpowder Plot and NaNoWriMo.

In this issue of Story Cauldron, I’m going to be writing mostly about NaNoWriMo, but allow me a moment of indulgence.

The ‘before times’

In a previous life (back in the early 2000s), I was a graduate student in History studying Early Modern Europe with a specific focus on 16th and 17th century English Catholicism. During those years, I read more than most humans ever will by and about Thomas More, about anti-papists and priest holes and pope-burning processions. And yes, the Gunpowder Plot, where Guy Fawkes and fellow Catholic conspirators tried to blow up the king and Parliament, because they were tired of Catholic persecution.

17th century England was a strange place full of suspicion and spies, where individuals chose their religion based on their politics and family members and neighbors wouldn’t speak to each other due to irreconcilable differences (and sometimes would turn each other in to the authorities). It was also a time of plague and devastating fires.

In other words, it was much like today. And they got through it, though it did take political upheaval and civil war. (Yikes!)

For that period of my life, I set my fiction writing aspirations aside for several years for what appeared to be loftier pursuits. Eventually, in what would be far too long a story to share here, I exited the Ivory Tower and decided to leave higher ed (where I had worked for nearly two decades) to pursue a new career in high tech.

And a few years after that, I was at an October company meetup at which I read a short story as my ‘flash talk’ in front of all my colleagues. One of them came up to me afterward and asked me if I had ever tried NaNoWriMo, also known as National Novel Writing Month.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

How NaNoWriMo changed my life

When my colleague asked me about NaNoWriMo, I had already written a novel (and most of a second one). I had also written lengthy research papers and a thesis. So the idea of writing a long piece of content (in this case, 50K words) in one month sounded nuts but not impossible.

In fact, it sounded like a big enough challenge that it was worth a shot. What was the worst that could happen? And even though I had a week-long work trip to Vancouver during the month, I still managed to write 77K words by writing on average at least 1700 words every day (even though one night I had to get words after visiting a couple of brewpubs on the company dime). More importantly, even though I was nervous about it, I attended a local kickoff party where I met other writers, and I got involved on the forums.

The experience as a whole helped me understand the value of a writing community. Being part of NaNoWriMo also taught me how to write better, faster, largely because it trained me not to edit my words as I write. And I found so much value in NaNo that a couple of years later I had become an ML (Municipal Liaison, aka local organizer), created a new organization for writers in the city which included meetups and day-long retreats, and in 2016 organized a one-day conference for writers.

And out of my experience with NaNoWriMo, I became more confident in my abilities as a writer, which allowed me to translate my skills into becoming a professional writer, something that seemed absolutely out of my reach beforehand.

And this brings us to today…

This November—right now!—I’m doing NaNoWriMo again, my 9th outing. Each of the past eight years, I’ve managed to “win” with 50K+ words and writing every day. I have a lot more on my plate this year (my Substack being one of them!) but I think I can pull it off.

I have a few ideas for Story Cauldron that might make the writing load a bit easier, but rest assured, my goal is to continue to write a post each Tuesday (I switched from Monday because everyone seems to publish newsletters on Mondays!) and share a chapter from my latest novel on Fridays for paid members. If I can manage it, there might even be a guest post or two.

I might also share how NaNoWriMo is going this year. It should be rather interesting because I’m writing a brand-new novel with only a loose premise and a few scenes rattling around in my head. This is about as unprepared as I’ve ever been. But I’m sure it will be fine. Right? RIGHT?

Oh, who am I kidding? Right now I’m feeling a lot like Mr. Bean about halfway through this brilliant plan of his…

Anyway…. if you’re a writer, I’d encourage you to look into NaNoWriMo (which technically started Monday morning but it’s definitely not too late to join!). Because who doesn't love being in a car that is racing downhill without brakes or adequate steering?

Have you done NaNoWriMo before? Are you doing it this year? I’d love to hear from you, and even connect over on the official website (my profile is jadana).

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Also, check this out: I’m now part of Shepherd, a service that helps people find books they’ll love, with a feature on the Best YA Faerie Novels.

And speaking of faerie novels, don’t forget that this week is the last of the free trial for The Boy Who Can Taste Color. Chapter 3 will be out this Friday, where we’ll start to unravel the reasons why Holden dragged himself out in a snowstorm to seek out the faeries’ assistance with his problem brother. If you like what you’re reading, be sure to sign up for a paid membership, which is just $5 a month. With that, you get to read my stories and know that you’re helping to support an independent author.