02 December 2009

I just wrote a 50,000-word novel and boy is my neck sore

I did it! At 11:57 pm on Tuesday, November 30, I copied and pasted my novel into the handy-dandy Nanowrimo word-count validation box: 50,016 words! I am a winner!

But in answer to your follow-up question: No, it's not finished. I tried, really I did, but I couldn't wrap it up that fast. One good thing about where I stopped two days ago (more like one-and-a-half days ago, in writing time): I'm in the middle of a suspenseful part of the story, which makes me want to get back and finish it. Only I'm too sore right now to type more than this.

In answer to your next follow-up question, yes, I'm exhausted. Writing the 50,016 words in the space of one month (a 30-day month, mind you) wasn't as difficult as I've found it in years past. It was plenty challenging nonetheless, and it took a huge push at the very end to finish before the deadline. That may be the most brilliant thing about Nanowrimo right there: that it gives you a seemingly impossible deadline to meet. There are enough other people doing it -- and getting it done early, no less -- that it seems like a perfect stretch goal: tough, but doable. O, that crafty Chris Baty (the guy who started it all a few years ago).

And when you win, talk about intrinsic rewards! You sure don't do it for the purple banner on your Nanowrimo profile. You do it so you have done it. You do it because you'll have thousands of words of a story you wouldn't have written otherwise, even if you have given yourself permission to allow them to be terrible and you'll have to rewrite it all. You do it for the writing itself. You do it to get better at writing a novel. You do it to get better at meeting a deadline. You do it to get better at pacing yourself. And you do it because once you have done it, frankly, it's a little addictive and you'd feel like a wuss if you didn't at least try. At least those are the reasons I do it. Oh, and the awesome reactions from friends and family. It is fun being the person in the family most likely to write a novel in a month! Thanks for your support.

Here's another reason you don't do Nanowrimo: to make other people feel bad. I don't want my accomplishments to be things I can use to make others wish they weren't the way they were, e.g. didn't know how to sit down and write a book (or most of one) within a month. A couple of nights ago I did a Sunday NYTimes puzzle on my own, with only two clues supplied by Mr. D, and I put the puzzle down and thought: I'm better at this.

Now, what good does that do anyone to go around thinking that way? The only reason I would ever say that is to make Mr. D. feel worse. But why would I want do that? Why do I ever act like there's one way to do things, and it's mine, the better one?

Some people are excited to cheer you on when you announce that you've been writing a novel, but plenty of us writers (this one included) have also observed that certain people respond by peering at you as if you'd just sprouted a third nipple on your chin. Admitting you have a blog can draw the same kind of response. Some people roll their eyes and say to themselves, "Oh, so you like seeing yourself think. Big whoop." They wonder whether you're just saying you write personal essays and are really hunched over your laptop writing sci-fi, erotica, fan fiction, or some other freaky online genre in which only other freaky online genre freaks would be interested.

It would be nice to hand over the bound book and say, "Here, read it if you like and tell me what you think." Their eyes would pop right out. And lo and behold, yea verily, an organization called CreateSpace is offering to print a copy of your novel if you win Nanowrimo! I'll let you know how that goes.

So it's not about winning so other people lose. First, in Nanowrimo, if you write anything at all of your novel in November, it's likely more than you would have written otherwise, so you win either way. And second, there's almost always someone who writes faster or more than you, and someone who writes slower or fewer words per writing hour. Comparisons don't really help. Instead of being jealous of people who can write 10,000 words in a day, I tell myself they just get more practice in a day than I do. One of the folks at the IHOP (I keep typing "iHOP" and having to correct myself -- ha ha) said he had written nearly half his novel over the past two days. Think of it: almost 25,000 words in two days. I can be proud of not having "shamelessly padded" my story, as they say on the Nano site, to get to the 50K, though. I tried to keep the story moving. There's not enough conflict but I'll catch it on the rewrite.

And how is the writing when you write 1,600 words in a day? 5,000? (Which I did on the last day.) 13,000 (IHOP guy)? You'll never know unless you do it, or unless someone trusts you to read their rough draft. Maybe I or the folks at the IHOP (who all won, incidentally) will rewrite his and publish it; maybe it will have just been good practice and he'll move on to different projects. I'm starting to see how nearly 20 percent of its participants can meet the Nanowrimo 50K deadline but a much smaller percentage become published authors after that. The ones who do seem to be prolific, judging by the small sample I've observed in Nano's forums.

It still seems far easier to write than it is to edit and sell the writing, which are equally consuming and perhaps, despite popular mythology, the more difficult jobs. It seems that writers must be able to turn on the taps regularly but then must spend at least as much time hauling vessels around and hooking up hoses and getting the siphons started to get the writing off their own desks. I want an assistant who would be excited to do all that stuff! My mom pointed out, as usual, right around the time I had the thought: "How nice that you are an editor and a writer." The way I had thought of it was: "I'm Danny and Meg, all in one package!" But they know all about sending their stuff out, which is where I'm ignorant and why I'm as yet unpublished.

So who are the winners here? One thing's certain: there are no losers. I think we're all winners, whether it's at writing a book, or getting dinner on the table, or finishing a work project before a critical deadline, or remaining cheerful despite all odds.

1 comment:

arleigh said...

congrats on the 50k word work! and I really like the nipple on your chin.