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  • Leslie Tourish

Better the Second Time

Updated: Nov 14, 2020

NaNoWriMo entices and bedevils me—and has for years. For the unfamiliar, NaNoWriMo (short for National Novel Writing Month) is an annual internet-based challenge in which writers attempt to pen a 50,000-word manuscript in November. That works out to 1,667 words a day. Every day. Oh yes, it’s a feat. I’ve tried it before and didn’t make it past a week. This is my second try.

Yet there are those who have made it all the way and end up with a rough piece of work. And with spit and polish, they’ve crafted their scruffy draft into a published best-seller. While that’s crazy rare, this annual challenge draws folks like me to see if we too can make it to the end. And if nothing else, at least have bragging rights: we finished.

So this year, the day after Halloween, I dug into my second novel. It's a story about twin sisters, Rachel and Sienna. This was a hard chapter, one of those linchpin pieces with lots of moving parts, because it sends the girls out into the world.

I spent several hours trying to find a way to pull what I could see in my mind onto the page. Could a reader feel the girls’ emotions? See their realities? Finally, as morning turned into afternoon, I felt I actually had a good rough draft.

Elated, I copied the precious chunk from Scrivener’s and pasted it into a Word document, just to get the word count. Over 1700 words! Perfect. I deleted the Word document and went about my day humming.

Later that evening, I opened Scrivener’s to check my work again… and a blank section greeted me. Poof. My girls’ struggle, once glowing with such possibility, was now startling in its blankness.

Apparently in my rush I’d hit Ctrl X (cut text) instead of Ctrl C (copy text). And because I hadn’t saved Rachel and Sienna’s adventure as the Word document, that copy too was gone. I’d never lost an entire chunk of text like that before.

It was only the first day of my new beginning with NaNoWriMo. Oh, the anguish and cussing.

So, the decision: Was I just going to beat myself up for typing like a Pomeranian in human glasses? Would I quit the contest? Or was I going to learn from this, slow down, and try to fail better?

The next day of the contest, I rewrote the pages. This time, I actually found a way to put in a more emotion for the girls. Because boy, was I ever in touch with fresh disappointment. Here's the thing: these new pages were even better than the ones I'd lost. I saved copies to a back-up file for safe-keeping, because pain is such a lovely teacher.

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