The first time I heard about National Novel Writing Month was on November 1st. I was devastated that I didn’t have more time to mill it over, be indecisive, indulge in doubting myself, and then give up before I even started. Instead, I shouted the intellectual equivalent of YOLO (there isn’t one by the way) and decided to go for it.
I was immediately met with obstacles. My girlfriend and I bought a house and have been making it sexier so that we can sell it for a profit in 5-10 years. Leading the charge on making it sexier are her parents, who actually view such strenuous work as a hobby. For months after we bought the house, they were coming to visit us every single weekend to make it livable. They took the Summer off because we live in Florida, but they were back on that first weekend of November. Between working my two jobs, I hid in the coffee shop, stifling the guilt of knowing that her parents were doing something nice for us and I was willfully not helping them at all.
I did what I do best, pre-write. Only pre-write. I was working on an idea that I’ve been stewing on for a couple of weeks. As I tried to bring it to fruition, I realized that instead of that idea, I should be writing the idea that I’ve been playing with for several years.
On November 4th, I pulled up an old, poorly written couple of chapters from a book about Zombies and stuff. I had to crunch the numbers to decide how quickly I should give up on NaNoWriMo. I read somewhere that the challenge is to write 50,000 words in November. That’s like just under 1,700/day. My old poopy rough draft that was channeling my screenwriting education and not describing anyone or anything because that’s the casting department and set design people’s respective problems was like 22,000+ words.
At that point, my world was rocked. If I could write 22,000+ words without even doing a good job, imagine what I could do if I actually got some momentum behind me (and by momentum, I mean a 30 day challenge type deal). On Monday November 4th, I wrote my first word for NaNoWriMo. Then, I wrapped my first sentence. Then I fist pumped silently as the dog stared at me like I was a lunatic because I finished my first 5,000+ words pretty much in one sitting, and these weren’t screenwriter words, these were NOVELIST words. I was still behind (I needed 6,800 words done by the end of that fourth day), but I was hopeful.
I spent November 5th (happy birthday sister) drinking wine and eating too much pizza over a respectable 1,900 words. I was a little loosey goosey from the second glass of wine, but mostly just distracted by the emptiness of the wine box (don’t judge, it’s fairly legit wine). I called it a night and went to bed really freaking early because wine makes me sleepy.
I worked 10 AM – 8:15 PM on November 6th. I told myself, “I will eat the delicious dinner that my beautiful girlfriend has prepared for me and then sit down with my computer and crank out some words,” but instead we watched The Purge, which is a little bit better than Entertainment Weekly said.
Today is November 7th. I had the day off from one job so I told the other job I wasn’t available to work. I spend the day playing fetch with my dog as I crank out words number 6,900-something through 14,000-something. I send my girlfriend a cropped screenshot that contains a gruesome paragraph and a word count of exactly 12,000. She is either intrigued by the context-less paragraph, or just awesomely supportive (hopefully both!), because she wants to read more. This is wonderful and I’m thinking I will let her, even though I haven’t re-read any of this crap yet.
On a side note, I don’t think I’ve let her read anything I’ve written since that one satirical short that I cranked out after a bad day at work. It followed a hard-drinking Millennial cynic who works with stupid old people that are holding him back and he goes to the bar and hooks up with Jennifer Lawrence because irony and also it’s fiction so I can do whatever I want, okay? (It wasn’t a great piece in case you were wondering.)
So, about the creative process:
- When I sit down and write, it feels really good (so much better than pre-writing).
- I’m ahead of schedule on my 1,700 words/day quota.
- I’m beginning to accept that I won’t be able to write every day. I’ve been on a roll lately, so I’d rather write for 2-4 hours at a time when I can than for 30 unsatisfying minutes on a busy day.
- I’m finally starting to adjust to the fact that I haven’t wanted to write books since 10th grade and am making efforts to describe the characters and their surroundings (AKA getting out of screenwriter mode).
- I had an epiphany that my dog doesn’t partake in Daylight Savings, which is why he has been waking up earlier and going to bed earlier this week.
- I’m on my 28th page and my 14,178th word. Some of it’s good, some mediocre, some awful. As I said above, I haven’t looked yet.
- I read that first time authors can typically get away with 60,000-90,000 words on their first novel. This is a bit distressing, because I’m George R.R. Martin-ing out over here hitting the above mentioned page count/word count on 2.25 chapters that just introduce the world and half of my too many characters (sorry – it’s the end of the world and I need my red shirts).
- On the plus side, my inciting incident is in the first paragraph.
- I have no idea whether or not I’m formatting this thing in a useful way. I just opened up Pages and dove in. It’s all single spaced so far.
This is a journey that we are all taking, so I look forward to searching through posts tagged NaNoWriMo and reading about fellow travelers.
Here is the screenshot that I sent my girlfriend:
I can’t emphasize enough that I haven’t reread any of this, so think don’t grammar of my poorly.
Here is my proudest couple of pair of paragraphs (pair o’ graphs?) so far:
Danny had never believed in a higher power. How could some divine, supernatural being be in charge of everything when the world was such a messy place? He had never prayed, he had barely ever asked friends or family for favors. Since he was a child he had known that he was on his own and that anyone who tried to tell him otherwise was a well-meaning liar.
He didn’t know who he was talking to when he voiced his desperation. “Help,” he whispered into the darkness. Then, he lit the flare.
For context, think zombies and stuff. Next time, I will try and post more coherent samples before I finish my fourth beer.