November was National Write A Novel Month, so, I wrote a novel.
National Write A Novel Month, known as nanowrimo, after it’s website name (it’s easy to say and write after you’ve done it a few times) is an online project that encourages people to write a 50000 word novel annually during November. There are regular emails of encouragement, and a vast forum filled with advice, trials, tribulations and triumphs of other writers to get you to write and to keep you writing.
The content of your novel isn’t judged. The only thing that matters is getting to 50000 words by midnight, Dec 1. It’s simply an exercise to get people to write which, as anyone who has ever aspired to be a writer knows, is half the battle.
My novel, The Graffito of Esmet, came in at 50295 words. I went into the final weekend frankly, very tired of writing, more than a little stressed and having ten thousand words to write. There were times that I though I wouldn’t have enough to write about. There were other times that I thought I’d easily get to the 50000 mark, but the story would be unfinished. It was important to me to finish up the 50 K and the story, so that last morning, I rushed things a bit just to tie up everything at 50295 words.
And finish I did, at 7:46 AM.
The book is a shining example of Anne Lamott’s “Shitty First Draft”. The plot has holes you can drive a truck through. There are vast forests of wooden dialog and most of the characters are paper thin. But, as Lamott also said, you can’t revise what you haven’t written and, there on that desk in the living room is two hundred pages just waiting to be revised.
There is a reason why the people who talk about writing a book vastly outnumber those who actually write one. It’s hard to do. Starting to write is easy. Continuing, when your confidence flags (as it usually does for me somewhere around eight words in), the excitement wanes and the reality that writing 50000 words in a month is work. There were days I wrote a dozen words, checked my fantasy football lineup, wrote another dozen words, perused Facebook, wrote another dozen words, played with the cat and then looked at the clock to see that five hours had passed by and I had 36 words to my name that day.
I’m both somewhat proud of, and appalled at, my book. But I am following the advice I’ve read in almost every book I’ve ever read about writing: allow yourself that horrible first draft. I don’t see how it could be anything other than horrendous, given that it was the first time I’ve ever written anything on this scale and there was a considerable amount of rushing to get this in under the deadline. I am going to let a month or two pass and then I will break it out again and begin hammering into something ready for human consumption. As bad as this draft is (and I like the term zero draft more than first or rough draft), I refuse to shove into a closet like some Elephant Man of novels. I shall make it something beautiful.
Speaking of reading books about writing, what they say is true. There are some parts of the creative process…vital parts…that dont…can’t…happen unless you actually create. Characters became more vivid just because of the simple act of writing them. The story took shape just by writing it out. Things mysterious and unexplained about the process where revealed and made evident just by the simple act of writing.
So, yes, writing a novel, especially one in 30 days, is very hard. Yet it’s very simple. All one needs to do is….write.