The beginning of October means NaNoWriMo
is just around the corner. If you try the link and it fails, that's because thousands upon thousands of folks are signing up today to join in and participate.
I wasn't planning to do NaNo again this year, but it's the tenth anniversary of the event, and I just couldn't help but feel inspired to jump in and give another go. NaNo is what got me writing again, after a long hiatus. The kind of hiatus that verged on the idea that I'd given up on the prospect of writing. Not the kind of giving up where you declaratively say: I quit. No, more the kind of giving up where you put an idea or dream up on a shelf and say to yourself, whenever you bother to think about it, "some day I'll get around to that". As if being a success at anything in life falls easily into the category of "I'll get around to that". I mean, could you imagine saying to yourself "I'll get around to being a brain surgeon someday." Or, "I'll get around to being a professional baseball player someday." Seems preposterous. Getting to the major leagues, or in command of the operating room requires dedication. Time. Practice. Effort. So does writing. And writing is a career you could come back to later in life. There seems to be anecdotal evidence aplenty of people who have come to the career as a second, third, or later vocation in the course of their lives. And I'm a strong supporter in not falling into the trap of believing that there is exactly one path to life. In my opinion, you can
go back and reinvent yourself. But I think the insidious danger of putting such a dream up on the shelf is in making a passive decision, as opposed to an active one. Nothing wrong with trying something, and realizing it's not for you. But if instead, you just let one thing, then the next, then the next keep taking priority, so that you never get back to your dream, it the same result as having given up. I've heard the urge to tell stories described as a flame that burns within. Sometimes strongly, other times, at a calm steady pace. I wonder if continually putting that dream on the shelf will eventually make that fire dwindle down until it sputters out altogether.
Yuck, I hadn't meant to go off on a tangent about quitting. This is about the rekindling of that fire. In 2004 a friend of mine, blue_23
, mentioned National Novel Writing Month to me. It came at a time when I was puttering around with the idea of writing again. A timely suggestion that might well have kept the flame from going out. I dove in, I hit the 50K finish line with only hours to spare. I'd "won" and had a substantial body of written words to show for it. I can't think of many things more satisfying than seeing a stack of printed pages inches thick, and knowing you've produced it. It wasn't actually a finished novel. It was, however, the single longest work I'd ever done to date. Prior, the longest writing I had was a novel I started in high school, that had over a hundred pages, before I stopped working on it. The longest complete work I'd done to that point was a story that ran about 12K, back in college. I'd had a number of false starts with novels over the years. Typically, I'd get a chapter or three in, and then feel overwhelmed. NaNo taught me to not freak out about the big picture. It showed me to treat it more like a cross country race. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you'll get to the finish line. And that's a great thing, crossing that finish line. Even when you don't win the marathon, it sure feels amazing to make it that distance. Yet at the same time, while I hit the 50K mark, a substantial, and fantastic goal, I didn't have a complete story. It wasn't really a novel, in the sense that I couldn't hand it to someone, and give them a complete experience.
The next year, I did it again. But unhappy with the idea of another unfinished start of a novel, after November, I picked it back up a number of times, until I had a complete novel. It took many months, many more than I expected, and I felt so tired of working on it, that I turned back to short stories. I like short stories, and find the form interesting in its own right. I also believe that there's a lot to be learned about writing by focusing on the shorter form, that I hope to eventually take with me into working on novels. At least, that's the theory, we'll see where the practice takes me. So when 2006 came around, my wife being eight months pregnant with the Little Man, and me feeling little love with the novel writing process, I skipped the year. Instead, I kept plugging at short stories. But I keep getting these ideas for novels too. In the back of my head, they'd start to amass, and pound on the walls, and floors, and doors trying to get noticed. Last year, I had one pounding so loud that I'd had to take the step of just writing that first chapter in attempt to exorcise that ghost. It appeased it for a bit, but not long. Which then turned into my NaNo project from last year. Which is strange, and fun, but again nothing complete. I knew that, was fine with it, and immediately dove back into short work. I was happy that way. I toyed with going unofficial this year for NaNo, not doing a real new project, but just taking up the story from last year, and seeing if I could finish it. I've still got that as my backup plan, if all else just falls apart. But this year, being the tenth anniversary, I wanted to jump in and do it right. NaNo gave me writing back into my life. I figure, in my odd notion, that it deserves its little celebration for its tenth outing. So I'm doing a new story.
November is looking busy, even if I were not planning to write a novel. So, unlike past years, where I started with nothing more than a hazy idea and blank page, this year, I think to make it, I'm going to have to do a bit more prep. So, added to a busy October, I'll be coming up with details, ideas, etc, to be used in November. I'd call it an outline, except that, well I doubt it'll be anything that formal. We'll see how it pans out. I've got a month to prepare.