Archive for November, 2008

What’s it like being a novelist after 18 days?

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

Around 15 years ago I met a cute guy who owned a small town newspaper. I admit, I wanted to impress him, and since I wasn’t the only woman vying for his attention, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to dust off my writing skills and submit an article he might find worthy of publishing. Much to my delight, he called me after reading the article and said, a little surprised I think, “You’re a writer!” He also published the article.

While my plan to win him over romantically didn’t succeed, I gained something far more valuable than an LTR. From that day on, after years of dabbling in writing creatively, I actually began to think of myself as a writer. When people would ask me what I did, even though I worked as a telemarketer or an administrative assistant, I would say, “I’m a writer.” I went to writers’ conferences, read my poetry in coffee houses, and participated in workshops and literary events with writers whom I respected.

When I recently found out after all these years that this gentleman was writing his first novel and already had an agent, I thought, “Hey, I’m a writer, too. Why aren’t I writing a novel?” I didn’t have a reason to impress him anymore, but because he was the first to acknowledge me as a writer, I felt compelled to show him if he could become a novelist at our age, I could certainly give it a try.

Enter NaNoWriMo. It was the perfect opportunity to challenge myself to complete a rough draft without knowing a thing about actually writing a novel. It was such a hair-brained idea, I could not think of a reason not to do it!

Now it very well may turn out that he sells his novel and goes on to become rich and famous, or not. And it may turn out that all I ever accomplish is putting together a story of 50,000 or so words and never get it published, or maybe I’ll get published and become rich and famous. But the really important point here is that just as it was 15 years ago when I started thinking of myself as a writer, I am now thinking of myself as a novelist.

They say a habit takes 21 days to take root. I’ve been noveling for 18 days, so in just three more days, I will officially be a novelist. I dare anyone to tell me I’m not. I will never think of myself in quite the same way again.

Yes, I can do this!

Saturday, November 8th, 2008

I am writing Chapter 8 of my 30-day novel and wondering why I haven’t written a word of dialogue yet. Being an essayist and poet, I don’t have much occasion to write dialogue, so I consult one of several books with which I’ve surrounded myself in the past couple of weeks to “teach” me how to write a novel. Remember, I’ve never attempted to write a novel before. I’ve read plenty of them in the past 50 years, particularly in the genre I’m trying to write, but I’ve never thought I could pull off the feat of writing one myself.

So now I’m drowning in self-doubts. Maybe I can’t (I know, I HATE that word, but it keeps creeping up on me) write dialogue. I need immediate remedial dialogue-writing help. I don’t have any novels I’m currently reading and I’m in temporary quarters so my library of favorites is on the other side of the country. I don’t have TIME to read anything right now, anyway. What to do?

There is only one thing to do. Just write it. And so, finally reaching a point in the narrative where I feel comfortable putting two characters in a place where they might actually speak to one another, I am forcing myself to write dialogue…by the seat of my pants.

And guess what? I CAN DO THIS THING! I can write dialogue, and it’s not pointless. It moves the scene and gives additional dimension to the characters and showcases their emotional state and their relationship…and…and…

I’m exhausted. I’m flying. I’m sailing down the hill on a sled or a two-wheeler for the first time. I’m walking on two feet instead of crawling on hands and knees. I’m doing it instinctively.

Surprise! I guess I’ve been able to do it all along. All I had to do was start.

Who knew novel-writing could be this much fun?

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

I admit it. I’m one of those people who has spent her whole life composing novels in her head and never writing one. I even try to live my life as if it were a novel. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I do write. I’ve even been published (aside from these blogs), but the idea of spending months or even years working on a full-length novel (as many well-known authors have confessed to doing) really holds no appeal for a poet and essayist. I like something I can complete in one or two sittings. So when I heard about NaNoWriMo, a challenge to write a complete rough draft of a novel during the month of November, my first reaction was to dismiss the idea of wanting to write a novel in the first place. After all, if I don’t want to write one, why consider writing one in 30 days? That’s 29 days and 22 hours more than it takes me to write anything else!

But I had to admit to myself that it was always a secret ambition of mine to compete with all those overachieving writer friends of mine who have at least one novel to their names. So finally, after all these years of wimping out in the novel department, I decided to give it a go, not having much training on how to write something as complex and important as a novel.  About all I knew was that I’d need to research characters and settings about which I knew little, and create a plot out of thin air. Well, NaNoWriMo makes all that seem like needless worry. As Chris Baty, the founder wrote, No Plot, No Problem.

I am now having a blast spinning gold (well, maybe not gold yet, but something) out of nothing. The characters and plot are evolving, talking their way out of my head to my finger tips, to the keys and onto the screen. I can’t wait to hit the computer every evening and type for 3 hours, just to see how it’s going to turn out. It’s like reading a book that hasn’t been written yet. Oh wait! I’m the one waving my wand and watching the paragraphs grow into chapters! I feel like a sorcerer!