The most amazing happened about 25 days ago … I was asked by my friend and fellow blogger Jennifer if I was doing the NaNoWriMo this year, to which I replied a very succinct “No.” But let’s be honest here, how can “No” be anything but succinct? It’s only two letters long. If it was any more succinct it would be “N” or “O” and that wouldn’t be an acceptable answer really (unless “N” has a checkbox beside it but that would be really odd if she would have put a checkbox emoji for me to enter “Y” or “N”).
She somehow managed to convince me (probably because I’m a pushover) to sign up, as she had a little group of coworkers, her sister (who also has an excellent blog here), and friends all taking part. Not wanting to be left out, and because I love the idea of failure to further drive me away from writing ever again, I signed up at around 23:30 EST on Halloween night, the night before NaNo started.
For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is short for the National Novel Writing Month. Every year in November, thousands upon thousands of masochists writers sign up with the goal of writing 50 thousand words by the end of November. And it helps if these 50 thousand words are all related to one ongoing story that will turn into a novel-length work. I suppose you could say you’re writing a short story anthology and have several short stories make up your total; but I’m not sure if that counts. I think it should. But I’m not an administrator with www.nanowrimo.org. It is free to enter, of course, and there are no real prizes in terms of money, books, meetings with agents, or dates with Jennifer Lawrence, but you do get a handy dandy PDF certificate if you finish!! Plus I suppose you get bragging rights as well. If you’re into bragging rights. I’m not. I’m as humble as they come.
So, I signed up. I had done NaNo twice before, in 2007 and 2013. On both of those occasions, I had an idea about what I was going to create. In 2007, fresh off the popularity of my first blog, Caught in a Speedo, it was suggested I take my thoughts and ponderings from that site and actually make a dating advice book. I did. And it is hilarious. In 2013 I took the idea I had for my ill-fated Master’s in Creative Writing course. On both occasions, I met my word count with ease. But this time, I had no idea what I was going to write about. I’m not much of a planner but I will at least have an idea of what will happen and when. Not this time. I didn’t even have an inkling of a thought. And then of course, because I’m a genius lunatic, ideas came flooding to me like that first pee in the morning after too much beer the night before. What if a band of circus midgets tried to form a human pyramid taller than the Burj Khalifa (828 meters)? What if a boy who loses his parents discovers he’s a wizard and gets to go to a special wizard school and gets into all sorts of trouble before saving the world with his ginger best friend and know-it-all future hottie? What if a tiny Sicilian guy likes to say ‘Inconceivable’ all the time? You know, thoughts and stuff.
I have a book at home, based on the teachings of Josip Novakovich, titled Fiction Writer’s Workshop, and after every chapter in the book it has some exercises to get the brain working and hopefully the words flowing. I was thumbing through it, hoping for some inspiration, and I found it. Second chapter so I didn’t have to go very far. One of the exercises was to write a page starting with the phrase, “My mother never told me …”
I took that idea with me to my computer and created this first sentence, “My mother never told me my name until the day she died.” And I went from there, using a premise for a short story I had thought of several years ago. It was the only thing I could think of. I had no idea of an ending, or even a middle, hadn’t seen any of the characters in my head, or even where they lived, but I started with that sentence.
Two days ago, I hit 50 thousand words. I still don’t know the ending. I still don’t see some characters completely yet. But I do see points where I can expand things, points I can tighten up (if I do the unthinkable and edit and finish this one). I like many of the ideas I’ve written down, even if some of the words annoy me. Hey, the purpose is to get writing, to get words down. I’ve done that; despite most of them being sophomoric and possibly insulting to intelligent readers.
Having averaged over 2000 words for the last 23 days, I find myself at that awkward stage where I decide if I like the story enough to continue, or to fall into my usual pattern of boredom and self-doubt. It’s a never ending cycle with me. One day I’ll just decide either way and not have to make that decision again.
By the way, I’m off to Africa again next week. There might be photos. Maybe I’ll even write about it. I seem to be writing again for the time being.