Those that follow along either here, on Twitter or Facebook know I took up the (at times asinine) National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.
23 days into this madness, here is what the NaNoWriMo web site says about my little endeavor…
Well howdy doody, we just crossed the 50,000 word mark! Let there be dancing in the streets, a celebration, maybe even some sleep. No more staying up until odd hours of the night, pounding away on the MacBook in pursuit of the daily minimum requirement of 1,667 words. No more wondering what the hell was I thinking. No more questioning my ability to write a novel…
Hold on there Sparky, not so fast.
Technically speaking, the novel isn’t finished yet. The story needs another 10 – 20K words to wrap up in some semblance of order. And make no mistake, what was written in this effort is SO not a final version. It barely qualifies as a rough draft. (UPDATE 11/29: Novel is complete, just under 65,000 words.)
It’s mostly crap. Oh, there are some spots where I would sit back and think, “Damn, that was pretty freaking good!” There are countless passages however where the prevailing thought was more like, “Well, that was shit. It reads like something a fifth grader would write.” And I’m sure when I go back and read through it there will be significant portions where I think, “What the hell?”
The point of NaNoWriMo is not to produce a manuscript that agents and publishing houses will be salivating over. There will be no advance, no book tour, no throngs of raving fans clamoring for an autograph on the title page. This process is not meant to discover the next Faulkner, Hemingway, King or Grisham. The point of all this insanity is to throw caution to the wind, to crank out page after page, day after day, in an effort to help the aspiring novelist realize that maybe, just maybe they really can write a novel.
Going into this, I had zero conception of how much work would be involved. When I wrote the article published here on TPREG that I was taking the challenge, I wasn’t worried about hitting the word count. After all, I’ve got 1.2 million words (roughly) written on this blog, how hard could 50K be?
Trust me, it’s hard.
It requires a long-term commitment to writing that I personally have never done before. The longest single piece of writing I’ve ever completed was my Senior thesis for undergraduate school that was 42 printed pages. To print this novel would take about 310 pieces of paper.
In a blog post there is no plot, no character development, no exposition or back story, little if any dialog. Writing a novel involves all that, and more. I tend to write blog posts in a “stream of consciousness” style. I don’t really plan out a blog post; I just write. That style worked for about the first 15,000 words of the novel. After that, it became readily apparent that I needed at least some formal structure, notes or an outline as I began to get hopelessly lost in the plot. I seemed to have a habit of spinning off subplots and characters, that while sometimes entertaining, could easily wander off into the ether, never to be seen or heard from again. Yesterday (or was it the day before?) I found one such subplot that hadn’t been any further developed since Day 3 of the effort. And I needed that scene and subplot to be more developed and those characters to come back into the story for the grand finale.
Enter Scrivener. Scrivener is writing software that combines a slew of nifty features into a word processor that allows one to write notes, save research data, shuffle text and ideas about. It, as they say, “puts everything you need for structuring, writing and editing long documents at your fingertips”.
And it saved my ass in this challenge. I’m still exploring the software and all it has to offer, but I know it is powerful stuff.
Things NaNoWriMo taught me
- Writing a novel is not easy. I have new-found respect for anyone that even attempts to tell a story in writing.
- I love to write.
- Sometimes I write well.
- Sometimes I write incredibly poorly.
- Good writing is hard.
- Attempting to write 50,000 words in 30 days is insane.
- But it certainly helps develop a habit.
- Having a plan is important.
- Scrivener is kick-ass software for developing that plan.
- The novel writing process is completely different from writing short, stand-alone pieces such as you read on this blog.
- I love writing character development.
- I don’t particularly care for writing dialogue.
peoplecharacters can be fun.
- Unless you’ve become emotionally attached to them.
- You can become emotionally attached to a literary character.
- I would quit my job in real estate tomorrow if I could make a living writing.
No, you can’t read the novel. Yet.
Throughout this challenge, I have received a ton of support from friends and family. Thank you, all of you. Particularly my wife, who never, not one time, complained that I was spending too many late hours pounding away at a novel that in all likelihood will never see the light of day. That woman is a dream come true.
Several people have said they can’t wait to read the book.
Well, you can’t read the book. At least not in its current form. *I* haven’t read the book, but I strongly suspect it is basically unreadable. Even if you could manage to slog your way through it and not die from boredom or excruciating literary pain, I doubt it would make any sense. Again, NaNoWriMo is about quantity, not quality. There are gaping holes in the plot, unresolved conflicts, and who knows what other horrors lie in the narrative.
It need revision. A lot of revision. If I had to guess, I’d say at least half the novel needs to be deleted, never to be seen by the eyes of mankind. I’ll be attempting the feat of revision over the next couple of months. Only time will tell if I can eventually craft this pile of words into a page-turner worthy of publication. I suspect at some point I’ll self-publish it and see if I can’t make thirty bucks selling the Kindle version…
For God’s sake man, at least tell us what the novel is about!
OK, I’ll leave you with this much. Here is how I see the inside liner of the Next Great American Novel reading:
Devastated by a personal tragedy, aspiring author Connor Hampton needs to get his life back in order. On a long flight to Beijing, where he plans to conduct research for his next novel, Hampton meets the young and vibrant Katie Pritchard, a brilliant computer scientist. What he doesn’t realize is this is no random chance encounter. In a plan put in place years ago by former Eastern Block revolutionaries, Connor Hampton is about to enter into a dangerous world of international conspiracy that reaches the highest levels of the U.S. government. Tempted by new-found powers to directly influence and craft current events, Hampton must decide whether to work with the revolutionaries and change the future of the world, or join forces with a much darker force and use his abilities to gain untold wealth and fame.
If there are any literary agents out there that find that appealing, give me a shout… 😉
Thanks NaNoWriMo, it’s been a blast. Most of the time.