On November 1, 2014, I joined thousands of writers worldwide who pledged to take part in National Novel Writing Month by penning a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. I’m pleased to report that I completed the challenge in 79 days with 62,541 words. I did not fail by going over; I succeeded by not giving up — which I very easily could have on November 30 when I was 20,000 words behind and nowhere near wrapping it up.

Character growth

On December 1, I continued writing. And writing. And writing. Nearly every day. I set new deadlines: December 15. December 24. January 1. January 14. But my characters kept doing and saying things I hadn’t seen coming – their personalities unfolded and their relationships with each other intensified. I could see the end, but I couldn’t force them there. They had to work it out. And, finally, they did.

On January 18, 2015, I closed my laptop and walked out of the living room without a word to my family who were busy on their own laptops with school and work projects. I needed to be alone. I needed to let it sink it. My first draft was done. Done. I quietly re-entered the room and waited for each of them to look up at me.

Drum roll, please

“So, uh, yeah, I reached the end,” I said in a calm tone that even surprised me. Their studious faces lit up. “Way to go!” they cheered and took my picture. I knelt next to the table whereupon I had laid my completed first draft, where I had just silenced my characters, and I reopened my laptop. I centered the cursor at the bottom of the last page, set the font to 72-point Calibri Bold and typed: The End.

Writing those two three-letter words equates to one four-letter word: Edit.

And that’s what’s next. Lots of that. Edit. Revise. Rewrite until I reach the end again. And maybe one more time again. But give me 30, 45, 79 days, tops, and I’ll get there. The proof is in the first The End.