In past years, I’ve watched National Novel Writing Month pass by like Amtrak at an at a railroad crossing. I’ve always thought, even if I could crank out the word count, it would be garbage, right? I couldn’t imagine a writer worth his ink believing anything worthwhile could come of it and secretly judged the nerds who do. Well, it turns out that a few of those “nerds” are kind of a big deal.
About halfway through October, I realized I was in the perfect position to give NaNoWriMo a shot. For the past three weeks or so, I’ve solidified characters, setting, and produced a basic outline from start to finish. This is a novel I started in 2008, but dropped in the trunk when it didn’t seem to be working. It seems to me now that, with all the ingredients laid out before me, I might be able to cook this thing up into something tasty. The worst that can happen is that I’ll end up with a horrible first draft to refine into a second.
So, I’m committed and surprised to discover that I’m pretty excited about it. (I suspect that’ll wear off by about day 3.) The thing is, I don’t actually know what I’m capable of. What if I can produce 80,000 words in a month? I’m wary of the possibility that after so much sustained effort, I could be oblivious to the wrongness of the thing I have made. Luckily, my lovely wife, Susan, a finer writer than I’ll ever be, wants to read my work. Having a dedicated reader who loves you enough to provide honest feedback is priceless.
Earlier this year, having been let go as content manager from a soulless snake oil company in Tampa, I spent a lot of time and effort searching for another position. I had a bit of freelance work coming in, along with a military pension, but I felt responsible for doing more for our family. After a couple months of job hunting, I’d found nothing and started to wonder what was wrong with me. Is it my age? Are people afraid I have PTSD? Is my resume all wrong? Susan convinced me to stop looking and do what I’ve always wanted, to write full time. Yes, she’s wonderful. Yes, I’m grateful.
Even now, a nasty little internal editor sits on my shoulder as I write, criticizing each idea, every word. Perhaps running this 50,000 word marathon will wear that little bastard out enough to allow me to get something true on the page.
Terry Prachett is credited with saying “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story,” while Hemingway reportedly wrote in a letter to Arnold Samuelson, “The first draft of anything is shit.” Either way, I’m in.