On this, the last day of November, I still have a few more words to plug into my Nano novel, but yet, since I have already reached the almighty goal of 50K words, I can declare myself to be a winner of 2012’s NanoWriMo competition. This is a goal that I honestly did not think I could make, as the task of pushing out 1667 words a day seemed to be more than I was capable of, still, I did it.
I came into this contest at the last-minute, with less than enthusiastic thoughts that I could take up the challenge. In fact, eight days in, I was already 5K behind, and seriously considering dropping the whole effort. But if there is one quality (so to speak) that I have, it is that I can be incredibly stubborn when backed into a corner. This has all sorts of implications, but I will stick to the topic of Nano. In that arena, I decided to man up, or shut up (i.e., Enter the no whine zone). So, I put my carcass in a chair, slapped on the iPod, and pushed myself to do at least 2K a day. I also locked my inner critic in a box, and threw the key away, and though he did shake and yell a bit, I was able to ignore him. Soon 10K became 20K, and when I hit 30K around mid-month, it suddenly dawned on me that I might be able to do this.
Now, since this was my first real Nano experience, I didn’t know what I should be doing. I guess some people just dive in and start typing, but I need a bit more of an idea than that to get started. Thankfully, I had a bunch of ideas that came out of writing my first manuscript, which I intended as the first book of a series, so I decided to write book two as my Nano-novel. And with some bullet-ed ideas and a general idea of where I wanted to go, but almost none of the detail, I began. I would have to say that my approach worked, at least for me, such that I had a general direction from which to go, and I followed it. The characters did their own thing, and I wove that into the story, but the general direction and flow did not deviate. I skipped a few scenes, and dropped ones in midstream if they bored me, but often I went back and filled the missing elements.
But though I have already hit 50K, I have yet to finish the story, which may take a few more days. Nevertheless, starting with nothing other than a few general ideas and having nearly an entire story written in a month with a major holiday, this effort seems like an accomplishment to me. This process also appears to validate what I’ve been reading in Stephen King’s On Writing memoir. His advice is to put out a definitive amount of words a day, and shut out the world, or at least that part of the world that interferes with the creative (writing) process. That of course, is easier said than done, when jobs and families get involved, but those who succeed rely on perseverance rather than excuses and there is simply no way to get to the finish line unless you go all in.
I will admit, that some days, or at least at some point during the day, pulling the words out is akin to yanking out your own fingernails. But even if it is drivel, type it anyway. The point is to advance the story, not to write Shakespeare. Hell, people smear feces on canvas and call it art, your writing can’t be that awful — or if it is, at least it can’t smell that bad (I hope). So put on your blinders and plunge on. Rereading your prose is dangerous, but if you jump around between scenes, it is almost necessary, yet resist the urge to edit. That will come later once you finish the story, and want to polish it up. The goal is to generate draft zero (not the first draft), the one that only you will see. It may be as pretty as a box of rocks, but what the hell, it is your rocks, so of course they are pretty.
Anyway, in the title of this post I appropriated the term “writing dangerously” and applied it to the entire month. Typically, “writing dangerously” is used to describe marathon writing sessions on specific days. For me, writing is always dangerous as I am that type of person who, like the dogs in the Pixar movie Up are instantly distracted when something appears on the horizon. It doesn’t help that we live in a time and in an environment that is constantly in information overload. Drowning out those distractions and pushing your thoughts into a notebook or document is more challenging today than it ever was. How many times have you taken your eyes off your novel, to read an email, check Facebook, answer the phone or the door, pull the cat out of the toilet, cook dinner, clean the house, help with homework, etc.? And all the while, that story churns away in the mind, with characters talking to each other, plotting for or against each other until it just wants to spill out, and we have to force ourselves to take that jumble of ideas, like strips of paper mache and layer it upon the framework of our story.
Oh what a challenge it is, but so exhilarating to realize that this beast of perseverance is a creature of our genesis, full of life and potential. So now I go off to finish my story, and like Dr. Frankenstein, I will lift my hands to the heavens and shout “IT LIVES, IT LIVES!”
Hopefully though, it won’t leap off the table and strangle me.
Happy NanoWriMo everybody!