Organized insanity – It was two or three years ago that I first heard of NaNoWriMo (that’s “National Novel Writing Month” for the uninitiated). It seemed like a great idea at the time—write a novel in one month. I even thought of an interesting story idea for my novel. As November approached, though, it became clear that I was going to be too busy to do something silly like write a novel (actually, “novella” might be a better term, since the minimum goal is 50,000 words—still nothing to sneeze at, though). I stored the idea in a big box that got shipped away to the furthest recesses of my memory, and November passed me by. Then another November passed—or maybe it was two. I honestly don’t remember.
At any rate, last month I stopped by sewcrates.com and saw that David’s latest musing was entitled “Dreaming of November Contests (and probably lying to myself).” He didn’t mention NaNoWriMo by name, but I knew what he was talking about as soon as I read the title. At that moment the memory of that first November and my beloved story idea came flooding back, and a low, resounding bell struck somewhere deep inside of me, like the first stroke of midnight on a horror movie grandfather clock. You know something terrible is going to happen once the clock strikes twelve, but when that first gong sounds there is nothing you can do but wait and hope that the evil that lurks is kind enough to dispatch you painlessly.
I did not realize, of course, that the first stroke of doom had sounded. I only know this now that I can look back on it. I wrote David an e-mail, telling him how I had heard about NaNoWriMo a few years ago but was too busy to participate. Even though he had never directly challenged me to do it, I suddenly found myself making excuses for why I couldn’t do it this year. “November is just a really bad time for a grad student to try to write a novel.” The bell sounded within me again, and this time the ringing reached the edges of my consciousness. “If I wrote 50,000 words in a month, it would most likely be crap, and I don’t think me and my perfectionist self could handle that.” Dooooonnnnng. Getting louder now.
The moment I sent off the e-mail I realized two things. Firstly, the real reason I didn’t want to do this was because I had grown rather fond of my story idea, and I didn’t want to waste it on 50,000 words of crap. I was afraid I would ruin my story. As soon as I realized that, I said “Dang it!” to no one in particular (being alone in my study). You see, once I managed to strip away all the excuses and expose the truth, I realized that it was fear that was preventing me from doing this. And once I made that realization, I knew I had no choice but to do it—I had decided long ago that I would never let fear make my decisions for me (if you haven’t already, you can read my background story for more on that issue). So, on 20 October, with less than two weeks left before November, I threw my hat in the ring.
So here we are, the first of November (actually, the last day of October, since I’m writing this in advance). By the time you read this, I will have already posted my first day’s writing, and hopefully I will be off to a running start. I am very excited, and also very terrified. If mere rancor and spite could kill, David would be dead a thousand times over for dredging this up. But the die is cast, the Rubicon has been crossed, and there’s no going back now. When November is finished, I will either come home carrying my shield or being carried on my shield. I no longer comprehend the meaning of “failure.” There is only one option, and that option is to have 50,000 words or more by the end of the month.
I have a good story idea. It is solid, and it is very interesting. The working title is “The Dream Tailor.” The “dream tailor” is a man who creates custom dreams for others, and our intrepid protagonist decides to give it a go. He is soon drawn into a world that is strange and new, yet very real and captivating. I’m not going to go much beyond that at this point, because you will be able to read it yourself soon enough.
If we lived in a perfect world, I would be able to churn out 2,000 words of delicious prose a day, doing justice to what is, in my head, an absolutely fascinating story. There’s love and betrayal, hatred and revenge, uncertainty, adventure, and suspense. Oh, and swords. Can’t forget the swords. No sorcery, though. Well, unless you count the whole dream thing as sorcery, but I suppose I’ll leave that up to you.
Unlike David, who started writing 2,000+ words a day (not of his novel, of course) about a week or so ago to practice for November, I have elected to remain silent. This does not mean that I have not been thinking about my story, planning, and researching. Actually, though, I haven’t really done all that much in the way of prewriting (outlines, character summaries, etc.). Normally I really like to do that sort of thing, but for some reason I haven’t been able to bring myself to do it this time around. I have a lot of ideas in my head, but nothing on paper (or on screen) yet. And there are still a lot of holes in my story that I’m still not sure how I’m going to fill. For example, I haven’t even decided on a name for my protagonist yet. Yes, that is pretty serious.
However, the goal of NaNoWriMo is not to produce a masterpiece of literature in one month. The goal is not even to produce a finished product in one month. There was some discussion on the NaNoWriMo forums about whether or not you still “won” if you didn’t finish your novel. Some people said that you didn’t, claiming that it wasn’t “national start a novel month.” I replied that it wasn’t “national finish a novel month” either. The official name of the activity is “National Novel Writing Month.” “Novel writing” is an activity that is not defined by its completion. There is one goal in November: to write 50,000 words. I will try to keep this in mind on the days I am struggling.
My wife, for one, hasn’t let me lose sight of this goal. She has been very helpful in the planning stage, coming up with many very good ideas for the story. Every time I expressed reservations about adding something to the story, she would simply say, “Fifty thousand words.” Of course, there was nothing to say after that. I have to write fifty thousand words, and I need all the ideas and plot twists I can get. It actually amazed me how quickly she perceived the essence of NaNoWriMo, and it is very encouraging to know that she not only understands what I am doing, but why.
It seems rather silly now, but I didn’t actually tell her I was doing this until a few days ago. For some reason, I was afraid that she wouldn’t understand. I suppose I knew that she would, but there was that little part of me that was afraid, because I could not spend the rest of my life with someone who didn’t understand. That may seem a bit drastic, but the foundation of any relationship is mutual understanding. If you don’t have that, anything you try to build will crumble.
Of course, she understood. I had my speech all thought out in advance, and I started with: “Remember that novel writing thing I was thinking about a few years ago?” “Yeah,” she said. “Well, I’m thinking of doing it this time.” Then I launched into my explanation of how I could squeeze the two or three hours I would need out of each day, and how if I didn’t do this now I might never do it. Immediately, she said, “You’re right. You need to do this.” And suddenly everything seemed possible, because not only was I once again reminded that I had made the right choice in marrying her, but I was also reassured that the person closest to me understood me and my dreams.
I honestly did not expect her to help me plan the story, though. The best I was hoping for was that she wouldn’t grow impatient when I wanted to talk about it. The first time I spilled my ideas, though, she came up with a number of good ideas that I realized I had to incorporate. Although I at first rejected some of her ideas, I ultimately came to accept just about all of them. Many of them needed remolding to fit into the story, but they all added depth and interest to what I already had. I am fully confident that she’ll be able to help me out again if I get stuck along the way.
Anyway, what all this means for you is that Liminality will officially be on hiatus for the month of November. I will, however, be posting my daily quota in the Writings section, so you’ll actually end up with more content than usual. Not bad for a hiatus, huh? If you want to check back on a daily basis, you can bookmark my main NaNoWriMo 2004 page, which contains a brief description of what I’m doing and a link to each day’s writing—I plan on writing and posting in the evening, which means that new stuff will most likely go up between GMT 13:00 and GMT 15:00. So, have a good November, and I’ll see you again in December.