So for my advanced fiction class, we are being assigned to participate in NaNoWriMo. For those not familiar, I will explain. NaNoWriMo, or National Novel-Writing Month, is a challenge to writers everywhere to write a novel in a month. That’s 50,000 words in 30 days, which amounts to about 1,600 words a day. Of course, there would be no complaints if I was independently wealthy, had maids to do my housework, and nothing else to do with my time. In reality, I am a jobless college student taking project-heavy classes and must maintain my apartment’s appearance lest I wind up looking like I live in the middle of a smelly hurricane.
I’ve been writing fiction since the fifth grade and have yet to really publish anything, which frustrates me, but I am reminded of people who did not really publish anything until they were senior citizens, so I don’t feel quite as bad. But this might be the chance for me to really beat something out on paper and find enough motivation to do the revisions necessary for me to actually send it to a publisher . . . if I don’t go crazy first or fail miserably.
For this class, we are required to write a process blog and post it on a designated website and I thought I’d share my posts for that with anyone who actually reads this blog at all. So what follows is the first posting for that.
“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” — Plato
This is not my first attempt at a novel. This is not even my fifth. It is, however, my first novel with a deadline — a deadline that terrifies me. I finished my first novel (a piece of garbage, now that I look back on it), in three years and I am now being faced with the task of writing 50,000 words in a month on top of my other classes and responsibilities. I’ve already informed my parents that, if I seem to drop off the face of the earth, they can have a good idea why.
I’ve found I don’t usually do much in the way of preparation before starting a project — I just write. Indeed, I’ve only storyboarded once and outlined twice in my 10-plus years of writing fiction. This time, just writing won’t be an option, not with a deadline. And so it is that I spent ten minutes at Walmart this morning buying what I’m sure will not be my last packs of 4×6 cards this semester to begin planning for a story I’m still unfamiliar with. All I have so far is a basic idea and part of a name that will belong to my main character. I will be beginning my research this weekend after I do some more plotting and, now that I’ve found a selection of suitable character charts to combine into my own chart to help me create my characters, will map out most of who my protagonist will be (charts found at charlottedillon.com, epiguide.com, and eclectics.com).
My lack of knowing what exactly I’m doing with this project puts me in good company, I suppose. In Howard Cunnell’s commentary in the beginning of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road: The Original Scroll, Cunnell tells us “In his journal Kerouac writes that he has ‘no idea where I’m heading with the novel,'” and later, “I’ve got to admit I’m stuck with On the Road. For the first time in years I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO. I SIMPLY DO NOT HAVE A SINGLE REAL IDEA WHAT TO DO.” The idea that such a famous writer, whose work will live on long after those who knew him personally will be forgotten, had trouble with figuring out what he was doing is very comforting. At least I’ve got a basic idea, albeit a very basic one. I don’t know exactly where I’m going, but if not knowing anything but how to take a leap of faith was good enough for Kerouac, I suppose it’s good enough for me.
It’s going to be an adventure.