The lines are open. The fingers are flying. NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, is off to a record start - a literary marathon whereby 172,000 writers are currently racing to churn out their 50,000 words in 30 days, presumably writing the novel of their dreams. This much-Twittered event has generated its own forum of rants and raves, most notably led by Laura Miller on Salon.
In a stupor this morning, having reached my own 4,867 words on the NaNoWhammo Word Count, I happened upon Laura’s blog, “Better Yet, DON’T Write that Novel. I would agree. The Internet and the camaraderie of social media have cheered on far too many of us to practice literary witchcraft.
I count myself among the unbridled impostors writing a “novel” this month, and confess that I’ve signed up to trick myself into writing every day, hoping in the process to build up some street creds for my blog.
The words I’ve submitted to the NaNoWriMo site are merely words. At best, they are notes for a novel, to be sent back into the grinder, edited and culled and mostly discarded. I am spinning material this month, not writing with abandon, and indeed there are moments when I think that my time would be better spent in the month of November reading 10 great books, rather than attempting to write a crappy one.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it. NaNoWriting to the finish.
In this wildly exuberant human mash-up of literary output, I’m going sleep-deprived and slightly crazy, doing my best to take deep breaths and take in this experience as an experiment where trial and error are expected.
With the hundreds of thousands of books published each year, with the stockpiles of paperbacks and hardbacks you see at B&N and Costco, you'd think that that just about anyone can write a book. Well, try it. Making up stuff in your head is one thing. Writing it down is another. I stand in awe of anyone who can write a novel - and I do mean anyone and everyone, all those 30-Day Miracle NaNoWriMo folks included.
Facing the blank page every morning, I’ll tell you, the challenge of turning an elusive train of thought into a living, breathing character, a plausible place and time, and a moving plot device, sends me into a state of mild panic.
And so I spin. Word after word. Like a caterpillar in a cocoon. Whether my story ever emerges and takes wing will depend on the patience, discipline and level of craft I apply to it. A far cry from the mad dash scribbler I’ve become this month.
“Write what you know,” they say. What I know is that I’ve got a good blockage going, blocking my passages through this fiction. Going against the grain of most of the advice the WhammoRighto people have offered: here’s what I’m NOT doing: I am not. . .
- writing three to four hours a day
- writing in longhand
- writing with buddies
- writing in a new space, with a clean desktop
- writing in pajamas and eating chocolate
- writing under the influence
- writing in coffee shops and bookstores
- writing in costume
- writing on vacation
- writing with a program called OMMMWriter and listening to chimes
- writing while listening to my favorite music
- writing with an outline (must do)
- writing character profiles (should be)
- writing dialogue (would help)
- writing with previously well-researched material (not even close on that one)
- writing following a well-reasoned plot
- writing with a map
- writing as I fall in love with my characters
- writing to a muse
- writing to anything but the humdrum of my head and pounding of my heart
- writing in fear of failure
- writing a “novel”