Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Notes on the End of NaNoWriMo 2010

Now that National Novel Writing Month is over, for me anyway, I feel two things quite distinctly. I want both to write more immediately and not to write another word for a long time. (That’s a relative span of time; though I might want not to write for awhile, a very long time for me to go between writing sessions would be a day or two.) There were times during November when I was working on the day’s words and getting up to (and now and then slightly past) two thousand words, and my head would just start to swim and I would sit back in my chair and think that there was no way I could go on. As much as I had looked forward to the start of November, so I could finally start writing down all of the ideas I had been having for the novel, I was starting now to look forward to the end of November, so that there would no longer be this enormous pressure to hit a certain mark every day.

At first I thought it was going to be bad luck that I had to close on the last two days of November, but it actually wound up being good luck. Starting last Wednesday, on the 24th, I made a conscious effort to squeeze more words out of each day than I had been getting, so that I would have a cushion for the last two days. By Wednesday I was closing in on 40,000 words, and was much farther along than I had imagined I would get; and I wanted to make sure that I got all the way to the end. Last year, it quickly became obvious that I was disastrously behind and that I would never be able to catch up. This year, I never got that feeling once. There were days when I got behind, depending on what my work schedule was like, but I was always able to bounce back a day or two later and make up whatever ground I had lost. And then, last Wednesday, I started down the home stretch.

I started to accumulate more words per day than were needed for me to keep pace; I began to amass a word budget surplus; and I kept that going for the next four days, until I got done with the writing on Sunday night and found myself at 49,300 words. It was another one of those nights when I don’t think I could have written another word - not one single additional word; but I was awfully tempted to try, as close as I was to the end. But if I had tried to press on, just to get to the finish line that night, I would have written 700 very bad words; and then I would have had to wake up today and fix (or, worse, delete) those 700 words. So I left it, and when I woke up this morning, I had those 700 words left to go, and they just poured out of me. As soon as I passed 50,000 by the word count at the bottom of my word processing file, I uploaded to the NaNoWriMo website for an official count, and it was a skosh under 50,000, but not by much. Then I took out the date markers, deleted a sex scene that seemed to fit at the time I wrote it but afterward just sounded icky, and changed most of the character names. That put me a few hundred words under, but there was so much more to write now that it was no longer a question of getting to 50,000. It’s even conceivable that I could do some writing tonight when I get home, and tomorrow afternoon - so the question is really going to be how far beyond 50,000 am I going to get?

But I made myself stop at a certain point this afternoon because I wanted to take a short walk around Irvington to celebrate what I had done. (Now that I’m thinking back on it, I realize that I didn’t take any pictures. I had planned to snap some pictures on my walk, as a record of what Irvington looked like the day I won NaNoWriMo for the first time - but I completely forgot to do it.) That’s the lucky part about having to close the last two days of November, particularly today. I almost always work a nine-to-five shift on Mondays (which I. Fucking. Hate.), but got the close shift today because the manager who usually closes on Mondays is on vacation. I finished the last few tweaks on the novel in enough time to walk over to the coffee shop and back before I had to get in the shower and get to work. And even though all the leaves were already down and nothing was really going on, it was a nice walk - on a fairly warm afternoon - and it made me think how nice it would be if I could really make a go of this writing thing and do it well enough and consistently well enough to make a living at it.

And really, that’s why I want to sit down and get right back to writing - because the actual doing of it is the only way I’ll ever be able to get to the point where I can make a living at it; and now that I have accomplished a 50,000 word novel in 30 days - and one that is reasonably coherent and has a distinct beginning and end, even if there are some pretty big holes in the middle that need to be filled - going back to the pace I was at before, barely 500 words a day, seems like child’s play. The story I was working on before NaNoWriMo had begun to drift out of focus because of a set piece with one character that just went on and on and on; and even though I have trashed a piece of writing only to immediately start it over far too many times, I am going to do that one more time and begin anew with the story of a football widow who, despite strong feelings of commitment to her family and strong religious beliefs, finds herself gradually falling in love with a customer at the local farmers market who is also a cook at a local restaurant. He is, of course, more than that, and it’s probably important to point out that he’s a cook at a local Italian restaurant. Now why would I go to the trouble of pointing out that it’s an Italian restaurant? For exactly the reason that you think. This story is also going to get into some themes - religion, marriage, the Mafia - that I have wanted to explore but have never been able to get to coalesce into one particular thing.

I will be doing some copy editing work for a fellow novelist for a good part of the month of December, while at the same time hopefully making notes and plotting the trajectory of this new version of the aforementioned story; but I hope to start on the new novel at the stroke of the New Year. I also plan to change the direction of this here Blog-O-Rama as of the beginning of 2011. There will still be the occasional post on film, the occasional fake tweet, and other such miscellany; but I plan to focus mostly on writing and reading, to continue the progress I have made in 2010 toward becoming a serious writer. But in the meantime, Happy Holidays! And, in the words of the inimitable Kurt Vonnegut, I thank you for your attention.


Godfather Weilhammer said...

If you consistently spell NaNoWriMo each time in your posts with the proper capitalization, do you win a pen or something?

John-O said...

No, but they do have a ball-point pen you can buy from their online store. :)

John-O said...

I could buy one for you for Christmas.