Saturday, December 01, 2012

A reflection on NaNo, et al.


What a month of writing it has been. I have often fantasized about being a full-time writer, never knowing if I have the stamina, the attention span, the overall fortitude it takes to be one. And while my life dictates that I work a full-time job, nay, one that takes up 60+ hours per week, I still long to write, but wondered if I could conjure the discipline and long-term vision to see a big writing project to fruition.

I've made money before as a writer. I've written short stories. One was even published in a fanzine. I self-published a collection of Appalachian Trail fiction short stories in 2003. I've written countless essays and papers for college classes and had more than 1,000 articles published in daily newspapers. I've edited and wrote the introduction to two editions of an Ice Age Trail guide. Once, in California, I found this guidebook in a book store and showed my name to the person I was with. That was a cool moment.

But I've always dreamed of writing a novel. Ever since I was little. Ever since I had aspirations to be a writer.

I've started countless novels, only to have them peter out about 10 to 15 pages into them. When I reached a snarl in the plot, it usually doomed me to failure. A little voice inside said, "Hey, if you can't do this well. If you can't be brilliant, then why even try?" I neglected the craft. I put my creative energies into teaching, and then music, finding a necessary outlet for that love of art and craft that rages inside of me.

But there it was, on the edge of my consciousness, this desire to write a novel. "But I don't have the time," I thought. "Nobody reads anymore." "Family and friends could care less." "What if you write it and you don't get published? Won't you be crushed?"

But the ideas were there. I've got rough ideas for no fewer than five novels in me right now, including a work of historical fiction set in Nebraska in the 1920s and based on family letters, a novel centered around a minor league baseball game, a youth fiction/ graphic novel series about a character, the insidious Drain Monster, of whom I've already told a drawn-out narrative to my son (he loves them!), and one about life at a small-town daily newspaper, loosely based on my own experiences. There's also a futuristic dystopian science fiction love story... we'll see about that.

In short, I'm brimming with ideas, but have severely lacked in execution.

Until NaNo, short for National Novel Writing Month, a 50,000 word sprint that takes place every November. I'd heard about it a couple years ago and wanted to participate last year, but I made up some lame excuse about not having a regular schedule and didn't even try.

This year, I resolved to give it my best effort. And I did. I wrote on average two hours each day, every day (except one), the entire month. And now I've got a novel that's more than half complete, with an end in sight, characters fleshed out, conflicts presented and unresolved, work still ahead, to be sure, but with a climax and denouement in sight. NaNo is over, but I write on. The end is in sight.

And then we get into my comfort zone. I've always enjoyed editing and re-writing, and agonized over rough drafts, as if the creative muse was afraid to reveal herself because she knows the harsh critic that awaits.

I anticipate finishing the novel by the end of January and would like to get the re-write done by the end of February. In the meantime, I need to learn about the publishing side of things, as I know virtually nothing about how to get a work of fiction published. I know it involves publishers and most likely an agent, but that's about it.

I am very thankful to the local writing group, which I'm happy to know continues to meet beyond November. That's probably been the greatest boon of NaNo. It has connected me with a fellow community of writers. Writing is such a solitary act. It is nice to have a community to bounce ideas off of, to find inspiration from, and, to me, just not feel so alone in my endeavors. As I said, my friends and family are just not that into it (although my immediate family has been VERY supportive this entire month), so it's nice to discover this community of fellow writers. I look forward to getting to know them better in the months and years to come.

And I am very grateful to the Facebook community and those who lent supportive comments and feedback. The very platform of social networking provided an accountability tool that kept me on task when I felt like slacking off.

The novel continues. Keep reading the blog from time to time as I will continue to post rough draft material as I write it. Any feedback is greatly appreciated.

Happy reading... and writing.

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