I’m doing NaNoWriMo – November is National Novel Writing Month, where participants join an online communal boot camp and urge each other on to write 50,000 words of fiction in one month. Yesterday I passed the 10,000 word mark. This also means I’m writing less for my blog, so I’m taking a bit of time off tonight to explain my absence.
I’ve tried writing novels before and usually crash and burn around the 100 page mark, or about 20,000 words.
Novel writing appeals to the amateur in people – because most people feel they can write their first novel and be a success. That’s sort of like sitting down at the piano for the first time at Carnegie Hall. I’ve written 473 posts for this blog, so I consider that my piano practice for writing, but it’s not enough, especially since it’s nonfiction. I’ve written about 30 short stories for various MFA writing classes and Clarion West Writer’s Workshop in 2002, but that’s not enough practice either. I’ve read that most writers have to complete several novels before they get one published.
The NaNoWriMo people don’t expect word marathoners to complete a finished and polished novel, they just expect participants to go the distance. And even at the 10,000 word mark I’ve learned a lot. I’ve been thinking about the story I’m working on now for years, thinking I was writing it in my head when I was too lazy to write at the keyboard, and what I’ve discovered is that all the thinking I’ve done so far is no where near enough story for a novel. I discovered that by day 3.
At day 6 I discovered the ending I had planned wasn’t really an ending and I had to blast right on past it. This morning while in the shower thinking about what to write for day 7 I realized that I needed to blend in another story I was thinking about, so two novel ideas become fuel for one. I just doubled the characters I have to bring to life and now have two settings to paint, and I’m not sure how far that will get me either. Novel writing is MUCH harder than it looks. Just read one page of any great book and count the number ideas the writer had to imagine on that page. A novel isn’t about one idea, but thousands.
I’m already thinking of converting ideas I had plan to use for blog posts into subthemes for the novel. This story is becoming a black hole for all my words and ideas. And I know NaNoWriMo is just the start, because come Dec 1 I’ll have my 50,000 words, but a modern novel is really closer to 100,000. And those are 100,000 polished words that have gone through many drafts. And that means I need to think in terms of NaNoWriYears.
I love puttering around after work pursuing all kinds of fun activities that capture my whim. What I’m realizing now is how much writers have to give up to create their work. I see that it’s got to be all consuming. Damn, I wished I smoked cigarettes and took speed. I need to drive myself on, and now I can see why writers are often so addicted to stimulants. All I have is loud music. Tonight I’m listening to my “All Along the Watchtower” playlist that’s contains 117 different versions of the Dylan classic. I’m playing it loud!
Well, back to the word mines…
JWH – 11/7/11