NaNo…(Drum roll)…WriMo! It is upon us!
It is hard to believe, if you are an aspiring fiction writer, that you haven’t heard of National Novel Writers Month, aka, “NaNoWriMo.” Days and months are assigned to different causes, such as Pink October, National Cupcake Day (conveniently on my birthday), Mother’s Day, Black History Month, etc. About 20 years ago someone came up with the crazy idea of assigning the month of November to novel writers.
I used to be fairly happy with writing short stories. But it happened that I was no longer satisfied with a few pages. I would read books and think, Could I do this? I do believe I could! But how? How does one start? What was my method, the one that would work for me? How was I supposed to know what to put at the beginning and the middle if I didn’t know how it ended? And all that other stuff that paralyzes people who need a lot of control in their lives. My writing was slow and careful; I edited as I went along, and then edited again. I still tend toward that, but what generally improved my capacity to write was when I discovered NaNoWriMo.
NaNoWriMo basically says, “Just shove the blankety-blank words on to the page! Let your fingers tappety-type like mad, hauling words out of your reptile brain, scraping them through the cerebrum only long enough to lightly baste them with sentence order, and fling them onto your computer screen. Or, if you hearken back to yore, when people used quill and ink, let your Papermate fly across the spiral-bound notebook.
Now do that every day, for 30 days, the entire month of November. Until you have 50,000 words, which works out to about 200 pages. And there you have it: Welcome to your first novel! Or your 19th, if you’ve been keeping up every year.
Why is this a fun thing to do? For me, its because it breaks the rules I am trapped by with my careful writing. If the goal is to get material on the page because I can’t afford to fall behind, then I will just keep the words coming, sometimes surprising myself. More often, amusing myself with all the purple prose available to my nimble fingers.
It’s also fun because a whole lot of other people are doing it. This is the first year that I’m going to meet up with some other local participants, under a local “ML” (Municipal Liaison). Tonight we are all supposed to meet each other at a local restaurant. Writing is a very solitary activity for me. I need to be able to concentrate and get into my own head without distractions. But there is something cool about knowing that lots of other people are doing the same thing you are, separately but together. Sort of like individual events at a track meet. With cupcakes. Somehow I’m going to work cupcakes into this month.
What am I going to write about? Heck! I don’t know yet! I still have a couple days! I know I’ll get a better start if I at least come up with a scenario before the 1st, though I have started before on the first morning with just a pen and a blank piece of paper in front of me.
I’m thinking that I will spend Halloween evening coming up with something.
If I can get past the 2 week point (where I usually crash and burn) then I might share some of what I’m writing. It could be hilarious. But in the meantime, I thought I’d share a few previous years’ excerpts. This is one I started on a November 1st with a blank sheet (if that’s not obvious). Maybe you can see me reaching for the answer to….(cue scary music)… The Secret of Kevin.
Like waves rolling and breaking further up the sand, now drawing back, then reaching forward, consciousness slowly came to Kevin. He still felt the paralysis of deep sleep, felt like his body was encased in plaster, and he couldn’t twitch so much as a finger, but his mind was beginning to move from the night towards the day. With great effort, he managed to open his eyes halfway. They felt sticky. Bright light from an open curtain washed across his vision, and for a moment Kevin felt the room begin to spin. Or was it his body spinning? He couldn’t tell. His head ached, and his mouth felt sour. Had he overslept until his body rebelled, or did he have the biggest hangover of his young life? He moaned and heard the pitiful sound as he exhaled.
I can’t remember anything, he thought.
Kevin blinked repeatedly until his eyes cleared up and he could see that he was stretched out on a sofa. The sofa was dark green velour with a raised pattern on it that held onto his clothes as he attempted to slide up to a near sitting position. What the Hell has happened to me? he thought as he felt the rise of nausea in his stomach. He looked around.
Where am I? When is this? Who am I? Kevin felt a little panicked until he pulled his thoughts under control. My name is Kevin. I’m 20 years old. I go to school. No, wait, I did go to school, but now, what? Did I finish? It’s ok, calm down, he told himself. It will come. Something a little unusual has happened to you, and you are fine. To test that, he looked on his body and felt his head for any signs of blood or bruises. All clear. He rubbed his eyes and looked around the room.
It was a standard type living room. Sofa, recliner, TV set in the corner, one big picture window with the beige linen curtains pulled wide open, letting the hot western sun pour into the room. He felt like a stranger in someone else’s house, yet there was a niggling thought at the back of his mind that he should know more about the place than he could call to mind. A heavy thirst and a driving need for the facilities moved Kevin away from his effort of thinking and to the effort of getting up.
Bracing himself against the arm of the sofa, Kevin rose to his feet. He swayed a bit, and then the room quit spinning, and he could get his bearings. He walked past the kitchen and to the second door on the left. As he put his hand on the knob, he wondered why he knew exactly where the bathroom was if he was a stranger in the house? He swung the door open, went inside and took care of his greatest need. Then he turned to the sink to splash some cool water on his face and cupped his hands for a few sips of the water. Facing the mirror, Kevin felt a cold shock. It wasn’t the yellowing of old bruises on his face or the wild unruly blond hair that looked not to have been taken care of for weeks. And it wasn’t his bloodshot eyes or tattered, soiled shirt that made his stomach lurch. It was the coffee-colored words, written in lipstick on the mirror that said, “Go Home.”
“Café Mocha,” Kevin said softly, smearing a bit of the “G” onto his index finger and smelling it.