How does a story spring to life? If you string together enough words, do you eventually end up with a story? Does everyone have a story to tell? And if so does each person hold a predetermined amount of stories or is there actually an infinite cache of stories somewhere out there in the universe? If there is, does that mean that the stories can just emerge out of the blue, fully formed and ready to be told? Why is it some people can’t stop writing stories while others can’t start? What makes some stories more interesting than others? What makes some stories more believable than others? Does a believable story make a better story? Who decides? If you tell a story made up of lies and people don’t believe your story, is it because you’ve told lies or because you haven’t lied convincingly enough? Is there such a thing as a story that every single human being on this earth absolutely adores other than The Little Prince? Is story writing a craft reserved for a very few and if so are the rest of us deluding ourselves? How would that explain unknown writers coming out with bestsellers? Is a story a better story because it’s been published? Why are there some stories we feel compelled to share, while others, equally good, make us feel like we have found secrets we must keep to ourselves? If a writer simply narrates his or her own thoughts, can that be considered a story? What if the writer writes the story about someone having their own thoughts? Does that make a better story? Does a story have to have a beginning, middle, and end in order to work? If beginning, middle and end are told out of sequence how do you figure what is what? Can the end be at the beginning? In the middle? Can a story be written with no beginning and no end? Are there rules to breaking the rules when writing a story? Can a story just be an ongoing beginning? Or start, continue and end with the end? What makes some people better at telling stories than others? How come there are fiction stories that “ring true” when they’re based on pure fabrication that actually ring truer than real events retold? When they say a writer needs to be honest in their writing, what do they mean exactly? If I don’t know the answer to the last question does that mean I’m a liar? or just a bad liar? Or not a writer at all? If the act of writing makes you a writer, that means that every literate person on the planet is a writer which means… whew, no wonder publishers never get back to anyone. What if someone invented a contest where everybody can be a novelist and get a chance to write about whatever they want and everybody had a an equal chance at winning the contest as long as they’d written down a required quota of words? Oh there is? You don’t say. Tell me more; it’s called NaNoWriMo (short for National Novel Writing Month) and it’s on for the whole month of November. Following last year’s small victory of writing 50,000 words which could be seen as drafts to many many stories, this year I’d like to not only meet the word count but maybe even come up with something that is readable, or at least almost readable without being an embarrassment to myself or anyone who knows me. Of course the point of NaNoWriMo is to not get hung up on that kind of consideration and dare to be the worst that you can be as a writer… but knowing that Sara Gruen, wrote the first draft of Water for Elephants while participating in NaNoWriMo does something to my brain—that competitive edge “oh if she can do it then so can I”, even if I have no experience at all to back up such a claim. I get the feeling that one of the big differences between Sara Gruen and I is that while I spend all this time philosophizing about the meaning of story and story-writing, she’s actually just… writing stories. Sounds so simple. I wish I knew how to do simple.