There is a random photo that I took while snorkeling of a boat sitting upon an orb of sea. I call it “random” because I had my GoPro in 1 pic/sec interval mode and the photo was a total fluke, but it captured the Caribbean as a perfect lens-curved arc with awesome sunlit blues and a boat sitting framed in perfect 1/3 aspect. If my arm wasn’t in the corner, it would be a contestant for something even more awesome.
For the month of November I’m taking a social sabbatical. I’ll be quietly ignoring as much Facebook as possible, avoiding reTweeting anything, minimizing my Instagram life, and generally doing some non-technical things. I might do a few serious blog posts, but only if it’s got some weighty heft about something I want to record: like telling you about this awesome book I’m reading, or posting photos from some crazy adventure. But otherwise, nothing for November. Quiet. Still. Nada. And then… well… full steam ahead in December with my annual blog-a-day month. Until then….
I was backing up my handwritten pages by taking photos of each of them. On the last page of writing towards my challenge goal, page 176, I took a photo of the page with my thumbs up just below. Best. Writing. Photo. Ever.
If I said it was frantically handwriting a small novel, just because, would you actually believe me?
I’m not going to bore you toooo much talking about the plot of my silly novel effort, the one that ties into November’s National Novel Writing Month, also known by the not-quite-an-acronym NaNoWriMo. I mentioned in my post yesterday how I would be stepping away from the computer for those fifty thousand words and instead handwriting (well, illegibly scrawling in ink and paper) this year’s book. But, mostly for my own personal record-keeping I am going to tell you that I’ve done a convoluted series of calculations, that may or may not have any real bearing in reality, and say that I’ve figured I need to write one hundred and seventy-five pages of text to complete the NaNoWriMo challenge. Since I don’t have access to an accurate word count (such as if I were typing the darn thing) I need to estimate. So, roughly speaking, since I need to write about 1,667 words per day (on average) and that needs to span 175 pages, I’ve calculated that each page represents about 286 words. So, when the little widget in the sidebar of this blog tells you that I’ve written such-and-such number of words, it’s basically telling you that I’ve written that number divided by 286 equalling the page count. Either way, I’m going to have a good cramp in my hand by the end of November. I’m calling it “method writing” because –as I’ll explain in a later post, I’m sure, my plot spins around this central idea of an suddenly and acutely broken Internet… so my characters are technology-less, too. Get it?
As if I didn’t have enough to think about next month, I started contemplating actually doing some real writing in November. I had this really awesome idea, see. An actual plot. With characters. And it has just been warbling around inside my skull for the last few weeks, inconveniently nudging me (like a bored puppy) begging to be taken out for a stroll. Even more inconveniently, I received a generous dose of SPAM from the NaNoWriMo people, who have been politely sending me reminders since I first participated in 2002, that oh, by the way, it’s November soon and oh, hadn’t you better start thinking about that book you were going to write? Huh, huh? Nudge, nudge. Though I promptly realized that between a confluence of my plot and life, the last thing I needed was an excuse to stare at a screen for a couple more hours per day, so I set myself up with a wad of writing materials –notebooks and pens — and I’ve been staging things for November. Yeah, I’m gonna be that guy who talks about his book. But since it’s being handwritten, you won’t get to see it… at least not until I type it out sometime in… well, let’s say next year.
No. I didn’t actually start writing anything for NaNoWriMo. At all. Yet. Ever, maybe.
Writing something … probably not a full novel, but something … for NaNoWriMo.
With NaNoWriMo 2014 just a few measly hours away (thirty-some is a few, right?) I’m reminded of the reason why I (if not in participation, then in solidarity) follow along with this annual amateur writing event each year. And while it’s been a solid four years since I participated with the intent of finishing a book, I was re-reading my “7 Reasons to Write That Novel” post (which not-so-oddly crops up in my web analytics and blog traffic reports this time of year) and I was kinda thinking that I’d be remiss (with only my running the real impediment to my participation this year) if I didn’t at least try to write a few words. So I guess I mean to say that if a plot or idea occurs to me in that next thirty-some hours, you may be reading much more than my vague contemplation in the coming weeks.
We’ve been in New York for the weekend… plus a couple days, a grown-up trip, Karin’s mom hanging out at our house, babysitting Claire. For those who might be interested, I’ve had my phone and a US data plan this whole time and I’ve been trying my hand at live blogging whilst we’ve been touring around the city, all the while feeling very small in this massive, crazy metropolis. You can check that out that article on my website, but be aware, it’s pretty long and might make you a bit green: we’ve been having a helluva time.
Tempted. Oh. So. Tempted. If weren’t going to be away for nearly a full week sometime in November, it would almost be a no-brainer. And I’ve got a really good idea stirring in my head, too, bubbling there below the surface, brewing and cooking and ready to be plotted out into the digital pages of my word processor. I’ve even got some motivational rumblings in there, too. *grrrr* And I’m even sorta feeling up to the challenge again after skipping the last two years. Ultimately, I’ll probably skip again: time-constraints and work-pressures and running-schedules being what they are. Regrettably. But I’m tempted. Oh. So. Tempted. Someone give me a really good reason either way, and maybe it will tip the balance. Comment?
I was not impressed by an article I read in Salon yesterday (“Better yet, DON’T write that novel” by Laura Miller) encouraging writers to ignore the allure of events like NaNoWriMo and keep their novels in their heads. Nothing stinks so much of true elitism — not the we-disagree-thus-you’re-being-elitist kind of faux-political elitism — than someone who has struggled through, had a few lucky breaks, had an interesting idea, and made some progress on their career by publishing a couple mediocre-selling books then going off on a blog and telling others who are just starting out or don’t yet have the same time and resources to devote to a full-time effort to stuff it and shut up. To give up. Nothing stinks so much as standing a metaphorical half-step above everyone else and turning up your nose at those who are fighting to reach the stairs.
I’m not writing in this year’s NaNoWriMo, but not for any of Miller’s reasons. (Work, side-work, side-projects, parenting, illness… I won’t bore you further with my lame excuses.) But then, why write a novel?
Well… why not? Because you should. Everyone should at some point. And here’s my list why:
7. Skills and Style. Language is the means we use to communicate between each other most often. We write memos, notes, texts, letters, stories, comics (with words) and all sort of things like that. But a novel… a novel is a magnificent realization of a language: a complete, cohesive story that uses nothing but words to transport an audience from reality into an imagined time and place. When you need to build your novel to make a complete and cohesive story, you can’t help but pick up new skills in grammar and spelling… and better yet, fleshing out your own style. I have yet to meet anyone in this world who couldn’t benefit from work on those things.
6. Endurance. Someone who can write a novel — not even a good or a great novel, but just a novel — is like someone who can run a marathon (or, from personal experience, a half-marathon.) The feat itself is worthy of a pat on the back whether they place first, fiftieth, or just cross the line in one piece. Don’t believe me? Try either. Then have someone (*cough cough* Miller?) tell you the effort is only worth it if you place first (in the marathon) or become a best-seller (with your novel.) Stand still while I catch my breath and throw my running shoe at your head.
5. Participation. We live in a world where culture has become largely a one-way street. You are right now — at this very moment — reading an independent blog, so that statement might be hard to believe (because you’re a person who reads independent blogs and stuff like that) but I’d wager that ninety-nine percent of the culture that the average person consumes is not independent culture: it’s mass produced. And don’t even get me started on how this rolls into copyright laws. Instead of just sitting there suckling at the teat of mass culture, write a novel and participate in creating some culture of your own.
Nothing will rake your ego across the coals so much as realizing that writing a novel is not just randomly slapping the keys of your keyboard into strings of words, paragraphs, and chapters.
4. Humility. Nothing will rake your ego across the coals so much as realizing that writing a novel is not just randomly slapping the keys of your keyboard into strings of words, paragraphs, and chapters. Or, when you hand you “perfect” first draft to a friend to read and she gets half way through and tells you that the book is unreadable and makes no sense, and what the hell happened to your plot anyways, it’s bound to make you think a little more critically of your own skills. (Why is this good? Just remember that all criticism can be constructive — and that a little humility is a good thing.)
3. Fun. A lot of folks will laugh at anyone who struggles to pace out fifty-thousand-plus words to create a novel. But those are only folks who haven’t tried it. It’s a fun experience watching a world that lives inside your own head materialize into a story on a page. It is something that can only be understood by trying it. So try it. Why are you still reading this.? Go write… oh right…
2. Putting in Time. Malcolm Gladwell writes that we need to do something for 10,000 hours to become proficient at it. Ira Glass tells us of the years of crap we must produce to fill the gap between seeing what we like and making what we like. Miller seems to assume that folks either got it or they don’t. I agree with Gladwell and Glass. And writing a novel could check off a couple solid percent from that ten thousand hour tally and fill a lot of gap.
1. Luck. I don’t believe in “magical” kind of luck, the kind that just happens. I believe we make our own luck. And part of making your own luck is setting out the hundreds or thousands of little threads that eventually catch a metaphorical fly in your web of luck. You can string a lot of web with a novel, and who knows what kind of luck you will catch. Now. Go write something.
My crap? Don’t read it. I wrote a NaNoWriMo novel last year (2010) that still needs a lot of revision. But… I know whereof I write.