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Monday, November 22, 2010

My NaNoWriMo mania. It’s almost over.


So you believe you can fly. All you have to do is flap your arms, and if you flap and flail hard enough, oh yes, and jump up and down, and tell yourself you can fly, perhaps for a brief moment, you’ll leave the ground.  Just don’t try that stepping off the roof, okay?  
There are those who believe everyone’s got a story to tell and a great book to write, just waiting to break out like a fever.   “Take the leap,” they say,    “let your words fly where they crackle and connect, illuminate and surprise.”
 “Trust the process,” they say.  
To those who wildly, desperately believe there’s a book they could write,  if only they would sit down and write it, my advice is this:  write it if you must.  Write like the wind.  Write your heart out.  Write by all means.  But don’t expect outright results just for the effort. 
Writing fiction doesn’t pay that way.  At least not for me. Believe me, I could write a book about not writing a book.

I don’t know what I was thinking when I signed on with a friend to NaNoWriMo.  For those who don’t know, (it’s a good thing, indeed, not to know)  NaNoWriMo stands short and cute for National Novel Writing Month, “30 days and nights of literary abandon.”  The goal is to write 50,000 words,  presumably in novel form, from scratch to finish in November. 
“Let’s write laughably lousy yet lengthy prose,” the say, goading you on.  
NaNo in a nutshell: your words will not be judged, but every word is to be counted and verified by a “web-based team of robotic word counters.”  Bots!   They’re out there.  Counting words.  Sounds creepy.
There are no readers in this marathon.  So let’s not obsess over quality or clarity.  Let’s party in coffee shops, chat online, write ‘til dawn, “mocking real novelists” who carry on far longer than 30 days to finish their work.   According to the NaNoWhacko people, if you believe it’s a novel, then it’s a novel. And if you don’t believe, then what?  At least you have 170 pages of nothing you can call a novel-in-the-works to throw into a drawer and never look at again. 
Out of self-preservation, my “writing buddy,” my friend, the real novel writer, had the presence of mind to abandon the effort a week ago. Good for her.   With three finished novels under her belt, she has a voice in the matter, knows that writing in the long run is not a 30-day sprint.   
So what’s my story?  Still a mystery, where I haven’t a clue. But I’m still slinging words, like so much hash, slogging it out. Because I said so, that I would do so, and by-god, I’m going to see it through. 
Mercifully, the end is near. My NaNoWriMo mania will soon be over. 

To date, I’ve poured nearly 46,000 aimless words into the effort. Four thousand words to go, and no novel in sight. Getting to the 50K has taken approximately 50 visits and revisits to a story that’s likely never to take wing.  My attention to its detail is beginning to wane. As Thanksgiving weighs in on the week ahead, my focus  drifts  kitchenward, to the assembly of cookbooks, and recipes for stuffing, cranberries and pumpkin.  There’s delicious reading and real work to be done.  Multitasking, writing and cooking, like simultaneously tapping your head and rubbing your stomach . . . is near impossible, and bound to failure. And so  I hasten to finish this NaMo thing. Setting myself free as a bird . . . this Thurday, long before the turkey browns, the last line will be written.  That's a promise.

Photo: Writer's Block I. Credit: Drew Coffman via Flickr.

4 comments:

  1. Ah. 46,000 words. I'm so impressed. No kidding. As the author of 7,234, I can actually comprehend how many more words you've written than I this month of November.

    I feel heavily overworded myself since I've spent my three weeks of recovery reading (a ton) and writing (some). I feel as if I've learned something important about writing and reading but I haven't a clue what.

    Here's what we need to do. We need to complete what must be completed and then take a long walk (I'll go for a car ride or something.) Eat some turkey. Play games that aren't word games. Let time pass and silence fill the empty spaces.

    Then we'll see whatever there is to be seen.

    In the meantime, Viv, Happy Thanksgiving. And congratulations.

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  2. OK, Seriously, Ann. . . the word count means nothing. It's NOT like I have a cogent work here... I mean it when I say this is research. Just material, a few thoughts, and character sketches laid out quite randomly.

    My subject is difficult. Intentionally so... and very foreign to me. But casting the net out so far from shore, has forced me way out of my comfort zone. Even so, I've found it to be a method of sustaining my interest, which is a good thing.

    Your 7000 words I'm sure are a more sure-footed toe hold up the mountain. In 46000 words, I have no beginning, no end, and nothing in the middle. It's still a polemic, not a novel with living breathing characters. And I've done a ton of googling -- So don't be impressed with what I haven't yet achieved.

    What I've learned is how little I know about novel writing. Just feeling my way. Years ago, I bought a fat book: STORY by Robert McKee. It's sitting on my desk with a bunch of other books, waiting for me to read -- to feed the story.

    My subject still feels a bit pretentious -- and quite daunting. I need to find its voice. Or not.

    This exercise has been fun (well kinda) and crazy and exhausting. The real test will be to see it through- a first draft of a first chapter.

    Will see whatever there is to be seen.

    You too, have a feast. Well deserved! You've worked hard this month, far harder than I. Congrats back to you.

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  3. Happy Thanksgiving, Viv. I hope you're already drinking bourbon.

    Sorry. I'm still thrilled and awed by your accomplishment. And let me warn you: "Still feels a bit pretentious???" It ALWAYS feels pretentious. I swear it. You will always have to overcome that "who the heck do you think you are?" voice. It is the core of writerly angst. I write like I read. Hellbent for leather and deeply undiscriminating. And THEN when the dust settles, I hear that voice. Tell it to shut up. And then tell it again.

    This has been a great month for writers just forging on.

    And keeping track of you has kept my mind off my
    knee. May the Great Turkey be with you.

    Love,
    Annie

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  4. Wow, I've been so distracted, I missed this comment. Thank you so much, Ann.

    (And yes, indeed, the Great Turkey has been with me. I can tell, I have an extra 4 pounds around the waist to show for it!)

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