College Lesbianage Class of 2016: NaNoWriMo Hopes and Dreams

Hello and welcome to a special mini NaNoWriMo edition of Autostraddle’s College Lesbianage. Follow along as Nita and Kate write all the words with all the struggles and all the feelings.+


The University of North Carolina Greensboro

This month, I decided to embark on a whirlwind literary adventure and attempt to do NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month, is a month-long literary challenge in which the writer (yourself) tries to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. (For comparison, 50,000 words is about the length of The Catcher in the Rye). I did NaNoWriMo before back in 2009 and won, but since my writing has vastly improved since then I thought I’d give it another shot.

As of right now I’m 13,324 words into my novel, not bad for being on day 11. I’m using Scrivener to write, which is an absolutely fantastic word processing software for anybody considering a new one—plus, it syncs with my Dropbox so I can write on the go. (Well, it’s bad when I realize I’m supposed to be at 18,888 words but whatever). I’ve decided to write about a lesbian romance in 1969 between a high school senior and the local preacher’s daughter. It’s going pretty well, except for the fact that my characters don’t want to do what I tell them and I’m having a hard time getting enough research on Southern life in the late ’60s. So, if anyone wants to help me out with that research, I’d be more than happy to listen. I’ve been reading Dorothy Allison and Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle for inspiration.

I don’t know if I’m going to finish this novel or even get to 50,000 words, but NaNoWriMo is all about the journey—and quantity over quality, which is a huge deal for me since I’m such a perfectionist. I’ll fill all of y’all in on my progress at the end of the month and if I’ve made it across the finish line, but for the meantime, you can keep track of me on NaNoWriMo’s Website, and here are the opening paragraphs to my novel.

Had my mother not made me deliver a pie to the new preacher and his family, none of this would have happened. I’m not saying it was my mother’s fault, after all, but she has to see what she set in motion—that one small incident marked the rest of my year, the turning point in my adolescence. It was what made me decide to leave my town, and it was how I met the girl I would ultimately fall in love with.

It was August of 1969, and I was just shy of 18. Woodstock was all over the news, though the hippie movement never quite made its way to Alliance with the exception of a few of the high school students–it was too afraid of change, too afraid of anything different. Besides, our town was in the midst of its own turmoil, with the departure of our most recent pastor in a scandal involving a school board member. While the politics of the church may not seem so important, in a town as small as Alliance, the church was the town, the representation of our whole way of life. So the frantic search for a preacher had been well underway, and by the end of that summer, they finally found one–Brett Sommers, who, along with his family, moved into the house right behind mine.

I watched them on moving day, sitting on my back porch and peeling an apple with a knife from the kitchen. We never got strangers in Alliance—no one ever came in and no one ever left, except me and Jesse—the preacher’s daughter. Because she came in and tore everything apart, and I… well, afterward, I was hell-bent on leaving.



Wellesley College

My NaNoWriMo has gotten off to an unimpressive start, with me clocking in at…about 600 words at the time I write this. In my defense, I opened a play this weekend that continues until next weekend, and have thus has no free time at all for almost three weeks. But, the play is now in full swing and has been going very well, and I’ll have all of Thanksgiving weekend to write, since I’m not going home.

Content-wise, I’ve decided to do 50,000 words of journaling and writing exercises this year. I lost my journal in the move over here, and thus have not written down anything about my first three months of college. This is a travesty. And since I much prefer writing Literary Nonfiction to Fiction, I’m going to go through one of my textbooks from a Lit-Nonfic class I took last semester and do ALL of the exercises. (For those of you who care, the textbook is called Tell it Slant and it is amazing.)

2. November. 2012.
At this moment, I am sitting in the Shakes Haus at 4:58 on a chilly Friday afternoon. I just finished running some scenes from Henry IV and I’m waiting for 6pm to rehearse the Welsh song, and then we have fight call at 7. The show is in full swing as we head into tech week, rehearsals are running late into the night and the Haus is always a-bustle with people sewing and ironing and setting up and adjusting. Meg brought home (yes I call it home in my head) some vegetables and is making a soup with kale and leeks and beans and garlic (“I think you guys need some green vegetables right about now,” she said,) and the whole house smells like healthy food. It’s the feeling you get around holidays when you know it’s cold outside but it’s warm inside and everyone is happily busy and content to share space with one another. It’s great and so…homey.

I am still overly optimistic that I will be able to pull 50,000 words out of my ass in two weeks. If I can do it, you can too! How’s your NaNoWriMo going?

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Lesbianage has written 9 articles for us.


  1. Yes, yes I am. I “won” last year, and this year I’m finishing last year’s novel by adding another 50,000 words. It’s coming along nicely and is finally something that is recognizable as a complete work. I’m going to publish in 2013 – my ambition is April, but that may be optimistic.

    • I should mention – I’m at 25096 or so (haven’t added in today’s count yet) and my NaNo name is electrasteph, if you want some extra writing buddies.

  2. I’m pretty pleased with myself… it’s my first year, but I’m on about 22,000, so only a few thousand down from today’s goal. I can catch up on that over the weekend :)

  3. I commend both of you for attempting it your first year of college! Nita, I would definitely read the rest of your novel. And Kate, it seems I can get Let It Slant for $4.10 on amazon – how could I say no?! I’ve been in a bit of a rut as far as documenting and journaling my life, and that book seems like a perfect kick for me.

    I won NaNo 4 years ago at my first attempt and then didn’t try again until this year. And… it doesn’t look like I’ll be winning this year either. I got 6,000 words in and decided it was making me more anxious and stressed than necessary. I’m focusing on doing well in school and I feel good about “quitting” my novel for now.

    • Tell It Slant is really the best.

      I’ve done NaNo for the past four years, won twice. But even if I don’t win I feel so much more productive if I’m writing every day. I get more stuff done for my classes and usually I feel better about my day. So far, journaling’s been awesome – I feel much better about recording every day and it’s been good to take time for myself when I can. It really just helps with everything.

  4. I started doing NaNo back in 2004, and it was incredibly valuable even though I was about 7k short. Without that kick start I might never have buckled down and made novels my thing. Good luck to you guys. :)

  5. Pingback: College Lesbianage Class of 2016 | Everything Scrivener

  6. I’m doing Nano, too–allegedly. A week in I got distracted by a girl and haven’t written anything since…

  7. I got a bit sidetracked (sidenote: it took me like 5 minutes to remember what that word was as I just kept thinking of trains) this week, due to a mixture of visiting friends and developing tonsilitis for the first time since I was about 10… I was aiming for 60,000, but between schoolwork and the school play, I’ll stick to 50,000. Right now I’m on 28k – not bad!

  8. Ugh, my NaNo novel has stalled. Between studying for my final and my national boards and applying to grad school and studying for the GRE and meeting girls it seems that I don’t have a lot of time. But maybe I’ll still pull out a win? I have like 8,000 words right now :/

  9. Waah wahh how are all you 20,000+-word people so fast?!

    I passed 14,000 today, after a full week of vacation during which I had several leisurely hours each day to do nothing but write. Okay but I can do it though, as I have to keep saying at least up until midnight on the 30th. Good work, everyone. We can do this!

  10. Last time I tried NaNoWriMo was 11th grade. My novel was a parody of Twilight and Harry Potter and, randomly, life in my hometown. Then I realized it was really stupid so 12,000 words in I opened a chapter by revealing the preceding six or so had been an excerpt from a character’s novel and actually the real story was about debate so HA!

    I did not win.

    I meant to try it this year but stalled out around 3,000 words. Life has gotten hectic and our football team lost so it’s been an uninspiring month so far. I may try a summer spinoff like JulNoWriMo in 2013.

    Best of luck to y’all!

  11. To Kate:

    I visited Wellesley over April break and we walked pass the “Shakers Haus” and there was a big sign advertising a play that was happening that night and i am now severely kicking myself for not convincing my mom to attend because I assume you would have ben there! I totally would have gone if I had discovered these posts earlier. UGH!

    Anyway I’m still slightly in love with you and your story and I hope if I end up at Wellesley we will meet someday. Oh the joys!

  12. Hi, Gaby –
    I only just saw this comment (I’ve been looking through these old articles trying to find something I thought I had written about Wellesley, but I think I just made it up in my head), but I hope your college search went well. If you do come to Wellesley, you can find me through the Shakespeare Society.
    Wishing you all the best!

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