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Monday, December 4, 2006

Wait, Wasn’t I Writing a Novel?

posted by on December 4 at 18:45 PM

Yes, yes, in fact I was. And I did, in fact, write the whole goddamned thing, from beginning to end. I passed the fifty thousand word mark on Thanksgiving and I wound up just shy of 65,000 words on the thirtieth, making my novel almost 15,000 words longer than The Great Gatsby (confidential to F. Scott Fitzgerald: take that!) I’ve spent the four days since, well, drinking. And now I feel practically normal again.
As I said in previous posts, this is my third completed novel. What have I learned? A full accounting after the jump.

So, what have I learned?
Well, um, nothing.
I hated my book--about a security guard who's positive that his suburban mall is going to be attacked by Al Qaeda during the Christmas shopping season--more than life itself. Although i did learn that it's a lot more fun to write from the point of view of an irredeemably awful, racist, obese pervert than from a wishy-washy stand-in for myself. But for the most part I would write two thousand words before bed and go to sleep hating the very existence of the .doc file stewing on my computer, and then I would wake up in the morning and loathe the idea of sitting down and puking out another thousand words in the morning.
Last year, the book I wrote--about the Seattle mayoral election--was fun to write. I couldn't wait to get to it. Don't get me wrong, they're both bad, but last year's writing was fun. This year's was a drag. That said, this year's novel is probably better: there's a sense of structure that kicked in sometime during the first week and unspooled in an almost appealing way all the way through. It was probably more like what actual, good fiction writing is like, minus the extra obnoxious pain of rewriting, which is what takes up the most time of your good novelists, anyway. I'm not sure if I could be a novelist, even if I wanted to be one.
And will I do it next year? Yeah, I will.
Why? I'm not sure. There's something to be said about having a huge stack of paper with your writing all over it, holding it over your head and dropping it to the floor with a viciously satisfying thwack. It feels like production, the way that crafty people must feel after they've just finished knitting a scarf. Tomorrow, I'm going to sit down with a red pen and just mark the hell out of it, just to put some critical thought back into the venture, which is all about removing critical thought in the name of artistic production.
But next year I'm going to write something exciting, a melodrama in some genre, just to make things more interesting for me. My last three have been literary fiction, and, quite frankly, literary fiction is just boring as hell to write when you've got a word count over your head. I have friends who wrote genre fiction and so they dropped meteors on characters who weren't interesting anymore, they resurrected characters when they realized they had another ten thousand words to go, and they created elaborate agencies that stuck microchips in characters' heads in an effort to control them when their protagonists started acting out of character. That sounds like fun. Hell, I'd wake up every morning to read that.
The thing that surprises me every year in December is how much time every day feels like it has in it: when you spend an hour and a half every day to write a book for thirty days straight and then you suddenly stop, you get a real sense of how much time there is in a day. And it's a real pleasure to spend all that extra time watching creepy old movies.
By the way, as I noted in my first post on the subject, Stranger writers Davida Marion and Cienna Madrid both participated in Nanowrimo for the first time this year. Davida finished hers and Cienna came up shy, but, in her defense, she had other, more hideous things to do, so I think we can forgive her for missing a few thousand words, can't we?

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Wait, there's a jump? Why wasn't I, an RSS reader, informed? How many other RSS-truncated articles have I missed out on due to this lapse in the syndication's indications?

Oh, and congratulations on your novel. Glad to see it hasn't turned you off to writing lengthy blog posts.

Posted by mattymatt | December 4, 2006 7:16 PM

Kudos on your third novel and win; this is my second year, AND I insanely decided to be ML for the western Peninsula (boonies), as well. Not doing that again; it's tough enough to get the count. I thoroughly enjoyed your summation of the process. If your books are filled with that wry humor, they can't be all that bad. And, yes, what's amazing is that, even when we Nanos hate our stuff, when someone asks if we'll do it again next year, the answer is always, "Hell, yes!" That probably IS grounds for therapy, now that I look at it.

Posted by Savannah Blaze Lee | December 5, 2006 7:04 AM

Congratulations! You're right, genre fiction is loads more fun as a Nano project. I wrote a purposely horrible romance novel this year, and whenever I needed a few hundred extra words, I just threw in another sex scene. Throbbing shafts of manhood go a long way....

Posted by Megan | December 5, 2006 7:06 PM

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