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This Day in My History

George Washington's
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46th:   Take all admonitions thankfully in what time or place soever given, but afterwards, not being culpable, take a time and place convenient to let him know it that gave them.

Yesterday's Entries

2000: Advice for Tourists
 The World Changed in an Instant
2002:  Come Fly with Me
2003:  If the Shoe Fits, Buy It


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Everyone keeps telling me that I have the cutest ears.  I try not to let it go to my head.  (heh heh)

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9 October 2004


Get used to that term.  I suspect that during the month of November, you will hear it a lot

NaNoWriMo is "National Novel Writing Month."   You'll see this logo at the left until the end of November:

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So what is NaNoWriMo?  According to the web site National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Now, I'd heard of NaNoWriMo for the last couple of years.  Mary (Bozoette) participated in the project last year and out of it was born her novel, Girl Clown, an excellent first effort.

Even though I spew verbiage out of this machine by the barrelsfull, it never entered my head to think about participating in NaNoWriMo because historically, I have written totally crappy fiction--and this is a fiction writing exercise (though I suppose it doesn't have to be).

But when the logo appeared on Mary's journal yesterday, I started thinking about it.  About how it would be fun to write on a deadline like that.  About how misery loves company and it would be fun to commiserate with some 25,000 other kamikaze writers.  50,000 words sounds pretty overwhelming, but when you break it down into a 30 day month, it really amounts to the equivalent of 2 reviews a day, 7 days a week.  Heck, I can do that.

I think.

So I went onto the web site and signed up. 

After I got signed up, reality set in.

Yeah, I can probably write the equivalent of 2 reviews a day (in addition to everything else).  That's the easy part.  The hard part is finding (a) an idea and (b) a plot, and then assuming I can find (a) and (b), putting it in an entertaining novel format.  Totally different from writing a journal entry or the kind of non-fiction I do all the time.

I began to wonder what I'd agreed to do.

Now, of course, this isn't exactly like your 4th grade math homework.   Nobody will check up on me.  I won't be competing for a passing grade. Nobody will read this after I write it, unless I want someone to.  It's mostly just for me and to see if I have the discipline to write a novel.

The NaNoWriMo page says:

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

Writing a lot of crap?  Now we're talking.  We're getting closer to my level of novel writing skill!

Since I signed up, I've been agonizing over a subject.  A character.  A plot.   I hear writers talk about novels all the time and how the characters just "come to them" and how the characters, as they begin writing, dictate where they are going to go.

Totally foreign territory for this very rigid factual writer!

But this is only the first week of October.  I have a whole month to think about it and work out a way to begin.

Then I went to Borders.  I shouldn't be let near a book store at any time.   It's like turning an alcoholic loose in a liquor store with a credit card.  I had parked my car in the Borders parking lot, the only place where I could find a place to park, so I could walk up to the University to do an interview with the director of the upcoming production of The Laramie Project.  By the time I got back to the car, it was kind of warm and I knew that Borders was air conditioned.  I didn't need more of an invitation than that.

On the "new books" display table I found a little book (which I did not buy) called "100 Things Everyone Should Know How to Do."  One of the things everyone should know how to do, apparently is write a book.  How timely was that?

I wasn't going to pay $20 to buy a book for 3 pages of instructions in how to write a book, so I stood there and read it.  And I began to think a bit more concretely about the project and what might be a logical idea for me to pursue.

I also remembered my friend David Gerrold's book, "An Author You Can't Refuse," which talks about how to write specifically science fiction, but a lot of the instructions work for general fiction writing as well.   Needless to say, now that I want to quote from that book, I can't find it, but I remember some of his counsel as well.

So, since I hadn't had lunch yet, I bought myself a cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll at the Borders coffee shop and I sat down and mull over some of the ideas that had started percolating.

"Just fictionalize your life," Mary had said in an e-mail this morning, after I told her I hated her because she was doing NaNoWriMo and seeing that she was doing it had made me sign up.

(She also told me she hated me too, so we're in good shape here.)

Anyway, an idea popped into my head.  Just like fiction writers say they do.   I don't know if it's a good idea.  I don't know if it's a do-able idea, but it's an idea that really intrigues me.  And it takes David's suggestions to heart too--about how you can create your own world, and in that world you are in control and anything can happen.

So by the time I'd finished the cinnamon roll, I had an idea that I was actually happy with.  Now, I think the task ahead of me for the rest of October is to give some thought to the broad structure of this book and then start writing in November--and see how close I can get to my central character and where that character will take me.

No, I'm not going to tell anyone what this book is about.  If it turns out to be total crap, you'll never know anything about it.  And that includes people I'm married to, people I gave birth to (or who gave birth to me), or people who have been my good friends.  But if it turns out to be halfway decent, who knows?

In any event, at least I have a starting point.  I may hate myself, in addition to Mary, before the end of the first week of November, but I really want to do this.    So be prepared to hear a lot of agonizing over my struggles.  But it will be a new experience for me anyway.

Website of the Day

As my friend Michael says, this would be a riot, if it weren't so sad!


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Taken with my new camera yesterday.  Isn't this terrific?

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