Saturday, October 31, 2009

National Novel Writing Month

I have taken a step onto new ground. One of my sons started talking about Nanoreemo a couple of weeks ago, and said he was going to write a novel in a month. He's talked about writing a novel over the last few months, and he's outlined the plots of several possible ones. But Nanoreemo kept popping up until I asked him to explain.
That's when he told me about National Novel Writing Month, and Nanoreemo is really Nano Wrimo. So, the word is quantity. The target for a novel is 50,000 words, during the month of November. Crazy. If you go to you can find out a lot more.
At the same time, I've had a book gestating for the past year, and 50,000 words would be a nice target for it. And on 29 October I made a commitment to myself to write it within the the next three months. And participated in a course that highlighted to me that I have a tendency to mull over things too long. I do have intuition about decisions, I just sit on things "to see how I feel about them".
Stephen Covey wrote a book called The speed of trust. I get it. Trust compresses time for us so we can move fast without stress. We can move with speed and energy when we stay aware and build trust in our environment and the people in it.
Then my son goaded me again. "Go on, sign up for Nano Wrimo. You can write your book."
In 30 days? I was just getting used to the ridiculous idea of doing it in 90 days. And if I do it in 30 days, won't it be crap?
Of course these misgivings get brushed aside.
I think about the logistics of it. I break it down into days, into chapters, into words per chapter. Into time left after my work commitments for the month.
It's possible. Possible is a loaded word. It doesn't explain the effort and machinations it may take to get to the goal. It's a long way to "the end".
But I did it. Thirty-first of October. Signed up at Nano Wrimo as "silvertao", my favourite web name. Silver for my hair (no, not grey). And tao for the Tao, which is my expression of faith in all-that-is.
At four o'clock this morning some party people started enjoying themselves loudly just across the street. This is rare in our neighbourhood. We are quiet, modest people who mow our lawns regularly and take the bins in promptly on Wednesday morning after they have been emptied.
So I was awake, and they kept on enjoying themselves.
On some previous occasions when I have woken in the early hours, I have not tried to force myself to go back to sleep, but have got up and made a cup of tea, and read for a while. So I had a precedent for getting up and making a cup of tea at 4 am.
I booted up the laptop and opened a new Word document. I determined not to dally at this point but to start somewhere and then work out where the beginning was. Before the sun came up I was underway.
My intention in this blog over the next month is to be public about this project. I am not normally so. As I said to someone recently, the whole point about being a writer rather than a speaker or trainer is that you are fully rehearsed by the time you appear in public. You don't have to perform live.
Well, I am not going to publish the book here live. However, I will do two things. I will report on my progress regularly, and I will talk about how I am going. I am familiar with the cycles of doubt and the feelings of futility that can assail you when you have embarked on a project like this. "It is unnecessary." "I am already working." "There is no plan." More importantly, "there is no publisher in the corridor waiting to seize my book and commit it to the printing presses and offer it to an eager public".
But I am underway now. And I am already calling it my book. A gratuitous (and fictious) statistic: 90% of things do not live up to their promise. The ice cream is not as satisfying as it looked in the picture. The show was good but we had to stand for an hour in a queue to see it.
I banish these thoughts. I come back on course.
What is the promise? The book will tell a story that only I could have written, and it will be good food for the mind, the heart and the soul.
Finally, for today, there's this "story" thing. I wasn't setting out to write a novel. I've avoided this up to, well, yesterday. I have excuses, like "I can't think of plots"; "I'm a poet, a business writer and a philosopher, not a novelist"; "I can't write dialogue"; "I get bored with writing circumstantial detail". So I had to ask myself quickly: can I write what I want to write in this genre?
Of course there are answers to all my objections. Stephen King said, just don't write what bores you. Cut to the chase. There are countless examples of non-fiction writers who have written novels. Deepak Chopra, Hugh Mackay, even Peter Drucker. And there are lots of books that are written in story format, eg Who moved my cheese?
As to the plot, I know some writers have it all planned out. Writing a book for them is a strategic process. But there are others who write a story and are as surprised as everyone else about how it ends. I remember reading James Clavell's first big successful book, Shogun. There was a certain point at the end of a chapter about halfway through when I had the really strong feeling that he did not know what was going to happen next. He had the situation, the context and the characters, but it was all up in the air at that point. I may be wrong; he may have known exactly where he was going, but I understood how you can write a great book by just being there, being immersed.
Okay, I get the message. I'm in. I'm underway.
This morning I wrote 2,500 words. That's a good start. I am not getting cocky. I am not a machine, and all days are not even. I made a start, and there are many possibilities for where it can go.
I was writing about this project yesterday, and the expression "the urgency of love" came out. That surprised me. I don't have an explanation for that, but the expression sits up there in the cloud where all of the book lies waiting to come into form.
The picture for today is my image for the book.