Meeting Personal Goals: Writing a Novel

As I sit down to write this passage you are now reading, my eyes squint; my hands being to cramp; and I scoff at the word count I need to reach. Why? This is because, since November 1st, I have written over 40,000 words on my computer. In mid-October, a thought came to me. Not a new thought, but a recurring, haunting thought: I need to write. I began by googling a most vague question. I wrote, “How to write a novel,” in the browser and I clicked enter. Many searches appeared. But the one that stuck out to me was National Novel Writing Month. I began to peruse the site and see what tips they had for a complete amateur like me. There was no list of tips or explanations of how to begin. There was a time frame: November 1-30. Evidently, National Novel Writing Month was to start in just 10 days time.

I read on. The site is completely dedicated to writers who want to complete their goals and write a novel. You can earn badges for certain checkpoints and each day you add your word count to a tracker. There is an inbox to receive pep talks from real authors, who have already met success. There is a place to upload your title, cover and synopsis. I was beyond intrigued. I was finally inspired and frankly committed. If I was ever going to start this dream of writing a novel, this was my chance. So I signed up and I waited until November 1st.

I knew what I would write about. It had to be something I already knew about and could speak on feely, without needing to research much. Since I was 14, I had heard my parents tell me, “You ought to write a book,” when I would come home from my job at a golf course and campground. The stories I would bring home were insane and would leave my parents in stitches laughing. I would combine this, with education, and go from there. I titled my book, Summers by the Lake. Rebecca Thompson, my main character would tell the rest.

Each afternoon after school, I would sit at my table and start to write. In order to reach the goal of 50,000 words by November 30th, I had to write at least 1,667 words each day. That may not seem like a lot. At this point you have read exactly 412 words from me. But honestly, after a long day at school, coming home and doing anything but grading and watching Netflix seems a burden. I pushed everyday to reach my target word count. I would read the pep talks from authors and smile as my word count rose to 5,000 and then to 10,000. This was the first time I had gotten past the first 100 words of a book and I was excited.

The problem was, as it always is, that life got in the way. Heavy days at school, with classes in the afternoon and many other things that got in the way, I started to fall behind. I ended up having to write 2000 words a day to catch up again. Next, I left the city for a 4-day long weekend trip I had been thinking about all year. This trip involved a ton of driving, on winding roads, exploring daily in the jungle and near waterfalls, and limited Wi-Fi service in the hotels. I was again behind.

With one week left in the challenge, and exam week and final projects to be graded, I fell to my all time low. I had only 35,000 words. I was completely devastated. I had failed myself and would not meet my goal. I was stressing harder than ever. So I decided to pause. I graded like an insane woman for one week. And now I am here. I have resumed my writing and I have just 10,000 words left before the 2-week holiday break. Although I was mad and frustrated and upset that I didn’t meet the worldwide deadline I knew many had achieved, I was happy to have recognized my own stress and dealt with it. I will finish this book, and it won’t matter if it took me a month or a month and a half. I am a full time teacher with a busy schedule. Summers by the Lake is something that started out as a weak idea and is now something real and special. Personal goals are truly important, not just for our students, but for us too. Writing this book allowed me to see how some of the kids in my class struggle with projects and deadlines and balancing their schedules. Just like my students, I will finish this project. But now the question becomes, what grade will I get?

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please note this article's release date was delayed.