Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Writing a novel in 1 month = FAIL

So here it is, the last day of November 2010 and I did NOT finish writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Yes, yes I know that the month isn't technically over; I still have over 12 hours to churn out prose. But I have to start being realistic with myself; I only have just over 35, 000 words written - and they're not very good words at that.
No, I take that back, they're good words. It's my story that's shit. But it has potential. And for the first time in a long time I'm actually excited about seeing where the story goes. I just wish that I hadn't futzed around the first couple of weeks of November trying to figure it out, and then I wish I hadn't procrastinated as much as I did once I did figure the story structure out, blaming my lethargy on being sick etc.

So here I am a NaNoWriMo failure; but considering it was my first attempt, I'm pretty proud of myself nonetheless. I'd like to think that I will take some time in the coming weeks/months to finish and fine tune the novel that I started this month; but realistically I know that I probably won't. Instead I'm going to file it away, and maybe use it as an inspiration for next year's contest.

Speaking of procrastination and pep talks - the great Dave Eggers was asked by the NaNoWriMo coordinators to give us advice and these were his sage words:

Is procrastination a problem for you? Really? You think you have a problem?

Here's procrastination: The organizers of NaNoWriMo asked me three months ago to write this pep talk, and I'm only writing it now, after blowing three deadlines, after avoiding ten reminders. I was asked to write a pep talk for NaNoWriMo, and I'm actually writing it after the month started. So whatever procrastination problems you have, I probably have you beat. I'm the worst, and I'm getting worse every day.
It's a very strange thing, because we all think writing should be fun. That is, when I was temping through most of my twenties, wondering what it would be like to write for a living, hoping for such a life, I thought it might be pretty sweet. I thought if I ever got to write for a living, I would feel pretty lucky, and that I would be so appreciative that I would bound out of bed every day and, like a goddamned adult, I would write as much as I could every day, and get work done in a reasonable amount of time. Again, like an adult.
Instead, I need, on average, 8 hours sitting on my writing couch to get one hour of work done. It's a pathetic ratio. I stall, avoid, put off and generally act like someone's making me do some terrible job I never wanted to do. I blow pretty much every deadline I'm given.

Just like I blew the one for NaNoWriMo.

But then, when things are late, and I'm feeling like an idiot, and I feel like I'm letting down someone (like the people at NaNoWriMo, and you), I finally dig in and get started. And then I write, and I write in a fury, and I even, sometimes, enjoy writing.
And that's why I love NaNoWriMo. It gets you started. It gives you the impetus to finally start, and/or finally finish. Knowing there are thousands of others out there trying to do the same, who are using this ridiculous deadline as cattle-prod and shame deterrent, means goddamnit, you better do it now because you know how to write, and you have fingers, and you have this one life, and during this one life, you should put your words down, and make your voice heard, and then let others hear your voice. And the only way any of that's going to happen is if you actually do it. People can't read the thoughts in your head. They can only read the thoughts you put down, carefully and with great love, on the page. So you have to do it, goddamnit. You have to do it, and you can step back and be happy. You can step back and relax. You can step back and feel something like pride.
Then of course you'll have to revise it ten or twenty times, but let's not talk about that yet.

Write your goddamned book now. The world awaits.

Dave Eggers is the author of Zeitoun and What is the What.

Edited to add:
They've announced the "winner" of the 2010 Bad Sex in Fiction award. It goes to author Rowan Somerville for his book The Shape Of Her, a nothing sort of novel that was evidently self-published(?).
I have to say, even if it sounds like bragging, the one sex scene in the novel that I attempted to complete this month was a thousand times better than this crap that Sommerville wrote.

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