Sunday, November 05, 2006


I had heard of National Novel Writing Month for a couple of years now but never really considered entering. Writing a novel is one of those goals that I had had for years but never seriously thought I would do. In college I wanted to be a writer and wrote a couple of short, short stories but nothing more than five pages long and none of them very good. At least I don't think they were. I never really knew what to do with a story even if I had one. No real point to any of them. I was writing for myself, but not really. I was piddling around and not much more than that. Sometime in there I just stopped and did nothing for more than five years. A couple months ago I started another short story, wrote a page, was happy with what I wanted to do with it, and got busy at work and it didn't go anywhere.

On October 30 I found a link to NaNoWriMo and realized that it started in two days. I got all excited for some reason, an idea popped in my head, and I decided to go ahead with it. Why? Well, I pulled this from the FAQ on the message board.
If I'm just writing 50,000 words of crap, why bother? Why not just write a real novel later, when I have more time?
There are three reasons.

1) If you don't do it now, you probably never will. Novel writing is mostly a "one day" event. As in "One day, I'd like to write a novel." Here's the truth: 99% of us, if left to our own devices, would never make the time to write a novel. It's just so far outside our normal lives that it constantly slips down to the bottom of our to-do lists. The structure of NaNoWriMo forces you to put away all those self-defeating worries and START. Once you have the first five chapters under your belt, the rest will come easily. Or painfully. But it will come. And you'll have friends to help you see it through to 50k.

2) Aiming low is the best way to succeed. With entry-level novel writing, shooting for the moon is the surest way to get nowhere. With high expectations, everything you write will sound cheesy and awkward. Once you start evaluating your story in terms of word count, you take that pressure off yourself. And you'll start surprising yourself with a great bit of dialogue here and a ingenious plot twist there. Characters will start doing things you never expected, taking the story places you'd never imagined. There will be much execrable prose, yes. But amidst the crap, there will be beauty. A lot of it.

3) Art for art's sake does wonderful things to you. It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. It makes you want to take naps and go places wearing funny pants. Doing something just for the hell of it is a wonderful antidote to all the chores and "must-dos" of daily life. Writing a novel in a month is both exhilarating and stupid, and we would all do well to invite a little more spontaneous stupidity into our lives.
So that's why. Because if I don't try I'll never do it.


Nick said...
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Nick said...

Good luck! May you kick ass.