We’re twelve days into NaNoWriMo 2014. How are you doing? Have you cracked under the pressure? Are the words flowing out of you like silver streams of pure literature destined to alter the landscape of fiction as we know it? Are you plowing through your novel, letting the stream of consciousness spill from your mind in an unhinged screed* not fit for human consumption?
(Hint: The answer to all of these could be “yes”.)
For my own foray into NaNoWriMo, things are going well. I passed the halfway point last night. I’m no longer underwater in my word count. As of this writing, I’m closing in on 27,000 words. Basic math tells me I have about 23,000 words to go. (Basic math, by the way, is sometimes a stretch for me–I was an English lit major, after all–but I think I’m on solid footing here.)
Here’s what I’ve uncovered in the twelve days since I’ve started this journey:
* I’m in LOVE with how much this contest forces me to write. I have a terrible habit of being what Stephen “Uncle Stevie” King call a “lazy writer”. When the writing gets tough, I have a tendency to walk away from it and come back a few months later with no clearer way of tackling the problem. Except that, a few months later, my writing muscles have gone unused and have atrophied and my creative mind has grown fat and lethargic. This contest forces me to confront my writing every day, to flex my penmonkey muscles, and make some actual progress.
* A single sentence CAN turn into a novel. Like, quick. The novel I’m writing writing now is called Lost Things. It was based on a single (and perhaps rather long-winded) “what-if” sentence I wrote on the back of a church bulletin. The sentence looked kinda like this:
What if a man helps ferry dead souls to the afterlife by the use of items that show up on his kitchen counter that were personal and special to the deceased, but one day, using one of these “lost things”, he accidentally frees something evil and is then caught in a battle to defeat it?
Yeah, it’s a run-on, I get it. But it’s turned into something special for me. This one (long) sentence has turned into 27,0000 words in twelve days. This short synopsis helps flesh out that “what-if” sentence:
For forty-two years Bill has been dealing with the Lost Things. They appear in the morning on his kitchen counter. Each time they do, he takes them to a local secluded glade and, using an ancient rite, he frees the Lost Things’ owners, for each Lost Thing represents a deceased member of the Bill’s town. Each soul needs help transcending the void. After so many years, Bill is tired. He can feel his own time is near and knows he’ll need a replacement, which is why he agrees to teach Geoff. Geoff is a young man, married to his cancer-stricken wife Mara. But there’s a darker force at work in Bill’s town. A force that drives them to free the soul of a maniac and unleash a monster. Bill, Geoff, and Mara must overcome their fears and stop this evil before it can unleash Hell on earth.
As I plow through the writing, I find the it’s unspooling in my mind, with each day adding a new facet that I can fold into the main story.
* As this is my first NaNoWriMo, I know that when I go and try doing this again next year, it’s entirely possible that the experience will be the WORST writing experience of my life. I have this thing in my head right now itching to break free. It’s scratching at the inside of my skull with long dirty fingernails, trying to open the cracks. It’s leaking out now, right into my novel, but that’s this year. Next year, I might have the story idea, but it could fight me tooth-and-frickin-nail every day for thirty days.
* Insomuch as there is a community out there to help encourage you to write, what with all the “pep talks” that appear in your NaNoWriMo mailbox, the NaNoWriMo forums, and the NaNoCoach hashtag on Twitter, this journey, this effort, this mountain I’m (and you’re) trying to climb–yeah, well, news flash, you’re climbing it ALONE. No one can help you with it. If it’s climbing a mountain, then all the encouragement is people lining the sides of the mountain trail cheering you on. But none of them can lend a hand or lower a rope or a tree branch or find something useful to…sorry, drifting in a movie quotes for a moment. The point is, YOU are the one writing. YOU are responsible for all 50,000 words. No one else. And while encouragement helps, YOU have to be the one with the intestinal fortitude to soldier on. This is when you learn whether you really can do it.
That’s where I am so far. To date, it’s a really great experience. More than halfway there. If you’re not halfway there, no sweat, you have time. We’re not halfway through the month. You got days to make up some lost words. So let’s keep it going. Time to knuckle under, not lose focus, not stray from the marathon course, and keep going.
I got this.
So do you.
* Borrowed this phrase from a friend of mine because I love it.