For the third year in a row, I’m at that crucial point where I start telling myself: “What the hell is wrong with me? I’m no fiction writer! Why did I have to go and tell the whole world I’m participating in this stupid NaNoWriMo competition? I haven’t even got a decent storyline to work with and it’s starting in less than two days! Maybe it’s still time to just call the whole thing off?”
What is NaNoWriMo you ask? “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.” This year will be the 10 year anniversary for this worldwide event which started out in the San Francisco Bay area in 1999 with just 21 participants. As of last year they had over 100,000 novelists on board, including published writers and countless aspirants. It just keeps growing every year as the word gets around thanks to good organization and a web site which, among other things, provides connectivity for all the participants and supporters out there.
I should know better than to commit an idea to memory because 9.9 times out of 10 I am bound to forget said idea, no matter how “good” or even “brilliant” it seems. Around this time last week I came up with a “genius” idea about what and whom my novella would be about this year but forgot to PUT IT IN WRITING and now it has all but vanished. All I know is that there will be a despicable character in the mix: a married man with two kids who decides to troll around on internet dating sites to get himself a little extra action on the side. I don’t know much about him yet—have no clue whether he’ll be a principal character or just be mentioned as a passing anecdote—but interestingly enough, there is one very intimate detail I am absolutely certain of: the guy has a freakishly small penis. I have Anne Lamott to thank for teaching me this great literary device when the need for vengeance becomes too great (a small penis as a literary device? Why not?) though she suggested this trick for those times when the inspiration for a character is taken directly from a real person in order to prevent said muse to sue the writer’s pants off. It’s pretty well my idea of retaliation after a friend went through a terrible shock immediately followed by a difficult separation very recently because her Cro-Magnon of a husband never once considered that sitting down with her and having an honest talk might be a good idea.
Other than that, I know the brilliant story idea I had in mind was very clever, and very suited to my writing style, and… (did I mention it?) very clever, but that’s about it. Funny how the cleverest ideas are the ones you can never quite remember. I’ll just have to do what I do best—sit there in front of a blank screen and let my fingers do the storytelling; there’s a part of my brain which apparently knows what it’s doing. This is not a guarantee of good writing, or of a story that people will actually want to read but sure enough, if I sit there long enough and drink plenty of tea, and dutifully punch out 1667 words (or more) every day, something is bound to happen. Can’t hardly wait. Well, that’s not quite true, but in terms of letting creativity take over, it’s a pretty good way of passing the time and a challenge that’s just difficult enough to bring plenty of satisfaction along the way. After two consecutive wins, can a third be far behind?