Well, I finished the costumes and they were fantastic if I say so myself. (My kids had decided to “be” Felicity and Elizabeth, the Revolutionary War era American Girls, long gowns, lace, caps and all, of course with the historically accurate Velcro closures.) The cookies were baked, class parties held, pumpkins carved and chocolate shared.

Now that Halloween motherly duties are over, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be for the NaNoWriMo plunge. It’s the first day and I’m one of about 70,000 writers participating in the challenge to write at least 50,000 words of a novel by Dec 1.

Most of the WriMos are unpublished. Many are taking their very first shot at novel writing. I commend these newbies, because of all the people who say they’d like to write a novel someday, these brave souls have actually defined “someday” as TODAY.

I didn’t find it surprising to hear that the success rate in past challenges has been about 17%. My guess is that some participants get crushed by reality early on. I know there are other “failures” who fell short of the goal but still wrote considerable chunks. Even getting halfway is an achievement. 25,000 words equals about 100 pages of manuscript. Even if it needs major revisions, this isn’t bad for a month’s work!

I’m participating for a special reason of my own. After six books, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to tackle first drafts. I have put more pressure on myself to be brilliant, to be efficient, with the result that I self-censor too much. I’ve chosen not to follow up on intriguing ideas because I couldn’t understand the characters’ motivations, or they seemed historically implausible (not impossible), or because I was afraid readers wouldn’t like them, etc… The problem is, if you cut them off too many times, the girls in the basement (or the subconscious mind, or the muse, or whatever you call the dark, strange place where ideas come from) go on strike.

So for this month, I’m going to ignore all those worries and trust that strange dark place. I’m going to write what I feel like, for pleasure and for wordcount. I’m going to trust that if I write a scene I love, I’ll be able to figure out how to make it fit believably into a story. I’m going to relinquish control to the girls in the basement. Fly on the bat’s back and trust that I won’t fall.

Wish me luck!

LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE, RT Reviewers’ Choice, Best Regency Romance of 2005

P.S. The picture here is “Ariel on a Bat’s Back” by Henry Singleton, first exhibited in 1819, from the Tate.