Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Writing to Win

Today marks the final day of NaNoWriMo 2011 and I have just validated my novel (that's where I paste my novel into the official word counter and it tells me whether or not I have indeed achieved winner's status).

I have. That's right. 50,558 words and that makes me a winner! Yippee! Notice my new winner's badge off to the right there. Now...I'm not done. My story is still in the thick of things; it does not have an ending and really isn't even on the cusp of having one. So I'm not really sure I can say I wrote a whole novel in 30 days. But 50,000+ words: I'm plenty happy with that! I'll keep on and I'll get this novel done, because I write now. Every day, just about. More than anything, I'm happy with that. Returning to writing. Rediscovering how to scratch out a rough draft. Relishing the thought that I can edit later. Realizing a personal writing goal for the first time in ages. It just took that official third party to keep me accountable, I guess. So, thank you to National Novel Writing Month and the Office of Letters and Light.

I'll be back later with more things I learned about writing this month. For now, I'm off to enjoy some delicious lamb kofta courtesy of Mr. Wolf. Yum!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

NaNoWriMo Update

It is day 9 of the NaNoWriMo challenge, and I am doing it. Of the required 50,000 words due at the end of this month, I have written 18,585.

I still have time to play with the baby. And read. And cook dinner. And exercise. And shower. Who knew? Actually, I've found it surprisingly easy so far and, while I am fully prepared to hit a slump at some point this month, I'm starting to wonder why I have convinced myself for so long that I just don't have time to devote to writing while my children are young. As it turns out...I do!

Part of the magic in that discovery has been simple willingness to embrace the mantra "quantity over quality, quantity over quality, quantity over quality" (and so forth). I have tended to bog down in rewriting and proofreading and editing and rewriting and polishing and editing and rewriting by the paragraph during past attempts to really get a novel going. I don't like to leave a paragraph sloppy. I want it to be brilliant right off the bat. I think it feels like building a stronger foundation for the next paragraph, which is well-intentioned...but I end up with a lot of really strong foundations and exactly no energy left to build anything on them. So. This month I am not going back to read what I write. No rereading means no rewriting. I'm just moving on, sloppy or not. I may find when I get to the top of my novel that the foundation really stinks and the whole plot can only cave in on itself. But a whole novel with a caved-in plot is far superior to an awesome, brilliant foundation all by itself. Yes? I'm going with yes. I'm pretty sure my novel is Quite Bad at this point in the process, so I really have no choice but to go with yes, blithely.

There's always next month for all that rewriting....

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Running 'Round in Pieces


The necessary and the sublime, combined, fill the days and speed them up until it seems time is almost racing. Not metaphorically, but really. Determined to outrun any other sort of endeavor that might otherwise find a place in the daily routine. The necessary gets done, necessarily. The sublime exists in the state of things: the nobility in the baby’s face, of all places, or in service to beloved folk. Sometimes hilarity runs alongside, keeping pace. But as I read the baby’s books, both a necessary and a sublime (and often a hilarity, keeping pace, keeping pace), my mind wanders.

“I’ve got to think up bigger things.
I’ll bet I can, you know.
I’ll speed my Thinker-Upper up
As fast as it will go!”

I sigh. In this race I seem unwittingly to have joined I can’t help but feel I’m leaving something behind. Somewhere back there, trying to keep up but struggling, is my mind. Not my sanity: that I keep close, as much a part of the necessary as any other daily chore. My thinker, I mean. My mental acuity. I’m rooting for it. I desperately want it to pull ahead, but I can’t help but feel it’s falling further and further to the back of the pack. I lose clarity. And I wonder if it’s falling behind because it was never very good to begin with. It would explain why, when I read a great article about something that interests me or when I see a string of comments on the internet that really riles me up, the sparks fly bright and fast and hopeful…and then fizzle, fatigued out of the gate. Duds. My thinker is only good for duds these days. Old, tired, out of shape.

Maybe I should just leave it behind. It was never very good to begin with, remember? And even if I wanted to go back for it, is it possible? The sun rises and the sun sets and hastens again to where it rises and time keeps racing. So much of this race is so very worth running and I don’t know how to stop it if I wanted to, but how I wish I could run it altogether myself. Not in pieces. If I can’t slow down the necessary, maybe…maybe I can speed my Thinker-Upper up as fast as it will go. Prod it. Egg it on. Somehow or another it’s got to catch up.

It’s just got to. Yes, that’s my plan in its entirety for reclaiming my intellect. When my thinker catches up to the rest of me I’ll come up with something better. (In the meantime, special thanks to Dr. Seuss and Ecclesiastes: y’all rock with the catchy quotables!)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

National Novel Writing Month

November is National Novel Writing Month and I am thinking of signing up this year. As an event, NaNoWriMo is now in its twelfth year. I've considered participating in previous years but, being busy with babies or other goings on, never actually got around to making the commitment. Could I possibly put down 50,000 words of a novel in a single month? With an 18 month old underfoot? Or on my lap? Or perched precariously in some dangerous spot just out of my line of sight (this is by far the most likely scenario, by the way...Essie is a climber). The idea intrigues me, at the very least. So, maybe this is the year?

I have a friend who runs marathons. She's amazing. I'm often inspired by her commitment to training, to crossing the finish line, to continually pushing herself to personal best. She's even had me thinking from time to time about running. Yeah. I never actually get to the running part that should follow the inspiration. I love a good long walk; I could walk for a week. But I'd really rather not have to run even to the end of the street, let alone 26 miles. So I don't. But writing hard for a month seems like the kind of marathon I could get on board with. I'm out of practice and haven't exercised my writing muscles much at all in the past several years (see babies and other goings on, as above). Surely, though, this is just the sort of sport you can jump back into without fear of injury. In fact, it seems rather like an opportunity for intense training (habit building, making writing a daily exercise again) and accomplishment (writing as a marathon event) all rolled up into one. That 50,000-words-by-November-30th finish line? This year I just might go for it.

Anyone else out there who has done this already? Anyone else thinking this might be the year to start? I know I've got the beginning bits of a novel (and doesn't everyone?) floating around here and there on my hard drive, in my closet, in the notebook I carry around in my backpack. One of the very few rules of NaNoWriMo is that your month-long novel be written from scratch, but previously compiled outlines, character sketches, and notes are permitted to be used as reference. My bits and scratchings, gathered together and organized, could definitely fall into the notes and sketches category...at least, that was my original thought when I started to think about participating this year.

But the idea of coming up with something new, really starting from scratch, and developing an idea into 50,000 words of cohesive story in just 30 days is appealing too. I think there'd be less tendency to want to stop and analyze, to edit as I go, without the emotional baggage I inevitably carry for ideas that I've been stewing for far too long. And NaNoWriMo is all about quantity, not quality. It would be difficult for me to let go of quality while handling years' worth of cherished ponderings. So. Something new, then. My appetite is whetted. And, hey, I've just given myself a pep-talk full of marathon metaphors. That's a good sign, right? This year I just might do it.

(p.s. 50,000 words divided by 30 days comes to something near 1,670 words a day. This post has just about 550. So, I'm looking at three times the length of this post, every day, for a month. That's possible, right?)