Wednesday, November 09, 2011


NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month, or, "30 Days, 50,000 Words")

Well, on a fluke I decided to go for it.

Actually, it was out of sheer admiration for my friend who, despite lots of reasons not to, decided to be brave and make a daily writing commitment, and asked me to be someone she can report to. She has much better reasons than I do for not doing it, and I admire her so much, so I figured it was the least I could do to join her.

That's the cool thing about NaNo: what have you got to lose, besides an hour or two each day? It's not like I have to say this is my Big Book, the one closest to my hear that will be my masterpiece. It's just permission to mess around and see what happens, right?

Which is why I decided to do something really crazy.

See, I decided a few weeks before Nov. 1 that I would do this, and I began thinking up some ideas, brainstorming characters, etc. Two days before NaNo started, I spent many hours outlining an idea.

Then, the night before, I climbed into bed and thought, "I'm not really all that excited about this idea." Now, I've done NaNo before—it was how I produced my first draft of my first novel. And, that time, too, I wasn't all that excited about the idea I had come up with, but it was NaNo and I wasn't all that invested, so I wrote it anyway. If you've read any of my old entries about that book, you know that I never did come to love that book very much, even though I worked on it, on and off, for the next four years or so, producing several complete drafts and taking it to WIFYR twice. And I got some good interest from agents (a few still have partials or fulls), and, at one point, got my hopes up about its being published.

But I still never loved it.

So, that night before NaNo started last week, I said to myself, "Well, what kind of book WOULD you be excited about?" And I had no idea of a story or characters or anything—just a general theme and FEELING. And I dared myself to just try it. Why not? It's NaNo, a time to risk.

So the next morning I got up and started something with pretty much no ideas in mind.

And I LOVED what I wrote.

And the next day I loved it even more. And the next day.

I wish I could say that that passion continued. But . . .

Writing a novel is a lot like raising kids. At first, you think, "This kid could be anything! He could be a genius! Mozart! Steve Jobs!" The potential of that little guy is infinite. And then, he grows up a little bit, and you start to realize that, while he's absolutely adorable and you would die for him because you love him so much, he's really kind of average (in a very adorable way, of course), and he might grow up to, say, get a scholarship to BYU or be in the marching band, but he's probably not going change the world or anything. And you love them for who they are, and learn to just enjoy them.

So that's the phase I'm at with my novel. It was thrilling to imagine the possibilities of my book, but then I had to start making some decisions—and each decision limited the book in some way. By deciding to make it serious, I limited its ability to be hilarious. Be deciding to make it about religion, I limited its appeal to many, many editors. Etc. And there's a point, of course, where some of my decisions even go against something I originally wanted it to be—because I have to be true to the story, now, and not play god so much. I have to let my characters grow up, make their own decisions, etc.

That's the real work of writing a novel, I think. The making decisions. The giving up some things for other things. It's what kills me, but it's the only way to get through. Otherwise I'll forever have the Perfect Novel in spirit form but never embodied.

A writer is just someone who decides that the sacrifices are worth it, I guess—that the embodiment is worthwhile, even as it encompasses its own weaknesses. And isn't that the truest mirror of experience, anyway?

So, wish me luck.

And by the way, my 13-year-old is doing NaNo with me and KEEPING UP! In fact, he is ahead of me on words. What a guy. (Just goes to show that even your real kids do end up exceeding expectations sometimes, too.)

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