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NaNoWriMo: Hanne's Story

After I started pursuing writing more actively, I became acutely aware of something quite peculiar:

It is really hard to write.

I started telling stories when I was very young.

I still remember the stories made up for the most part starred the family dog and the eventual demise of my brother. I used to dream of one day being a poet, and living the big life as the greatest poet of my hometown. I’m not quite there… Yet.

I grew up in the southwestern part of Norway,

in a beautiful city shrouded by mountains and ocean. Out in the fresh air is where I discovered my imagination, something I have carried with me through my life so far. Just as so many other writers, I had written many beginnings, but so very few endings. I always considered myself a writer, but felt shame that I was unable to write any considerable length. All my stories seemed to come to an abrupt, unsatisfying end.

Back in 2014, I had churned on a story as I so often do, but I hadn’t tried to put it to words. One night at a London pub, I finally brought the story into the real world, and told a friend the plot. She introduced me to NaNoWriMo, and made the point that it was worth the try. I was skeptical. This wouldn’t be my first attempt at a longer story, nor would it be my last.

The first time I heard of NaNoWriMo, I have to admit I found it all a little silly. I think at the bottom of that emotion, was a little jealousy that writers were able to finish a project so quickly. I’m not very great at structure, as my life is excellent proof of, and writing is a result of habitual structure. A month long writing project gave me the kick in the behind that I needed to get to it. And I did. Several times. But I have also failed, several times. I won that first year, and I finished my 50,000.

By following their virtual write-ins, and speed-writing along with @NaNoWordSprints, I found that by the end of November I had written all of my 50,000 words, but I wasn’t finished. So I continued writing, but I hit a wall. It seemed that for me, the loose structure that followed NaNoWriMo was exactly what I needed. I tried again, and again, but it wasn’t until a good year had passed and I had spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to end my story. It seemed I had spent so much time trying to finish the story, I had forgotten that I had to write the story. I took so long trying to find it because I became so focused on the word count, rather than the actual story I was writing. Finally, this summer, I wrote that final chapter.

NaNoWriMo is a personal writing project, but I found that I enjoyed the social aspect of it. That day when I hit my 50k, I was surrounded with congratulatory affection from people all over the world who shared in my newfound glory as if it was their own. For me, it gave me a reason to write. Or at least, a reason to write what was meant to be written.

Writing this novel has felt like raising my own little child. After I finished my final few sentences, I let it sit for some time. This was both to let the story sink and to grow, but to get some space between my mind, the first draft, and myself. I am currently in the process of editing the first draft, and I am also working on a collection of short stories. As tough as writing is, it is one of few things that still brings me complete solace.


Hanne Elise Pollack is a writer and translator from Stavanger, Norway. She is currently finishing her debut novel, Over the Mountain, a dramatic tale of a family escaping war.

You can follow her on Twitter: @hanneelise

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