In the terms of Nanowrimo, the National Novel Writing Month contest, I am a complete and utter failure. As I write this on the 19th of November, past the halfway mark in which 25,000 words should have magically traveled from my brain down to the tips of my fingers and into my Apple, I’ve found that I’m concentrating more on the article about writing the novel than the novel itself. Where did November go?[computer1]
It was only two and half short weeks ago that I decided to take up the challenge of writing a novel. Neophyte that I am, I signed up with glee, thinking that 50,000 words total, a “novella” as some would call it, since it would take up only 175 pages, would be rather easy since I loved writing. I guess I forgot I was a full-time student, magazine editor and former caterer, who was trying to have a life. Nonetheless, on Nov. 2, I was enraptured with the idea that writing a novel would be the first step towards greatness and a writing career.
Starting was obviously and most definitely the easy part. I decided to do so, thanks in part to my cousin, Kevin, whom I noticed was signed up, too. That gave me the kick to actually do something about it, to start the process and craziness that is Nanowrimo.
Favorite authors? Check. A list comprised of Lewis Carroll, Kate Chopin, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ray Bradbury and Zadie Smith encompassed the profile made to look like a page out of the unwritten book I was supposed to be writing. [the1]Best music to write to? Got it. Give me classical, Bob Dylan, Sigur Rós and Coldplay, and I’ll write all night. Well, as long as it’s not the novel, because we all now know how that turned out. Non-writing interests? All written down. Wow, did I really put in ‘other types of writing?’ I did what I thought was impossible- I looked dorky among a website full of ‘em (and in the best way possible of course, since I associate myself as one.) The profile, as any unassuming checklist of your life can be, was elementary because, hey, who doesn’t mind writing down a few facts that will let others know who you are?
The actual idea of an organization supporting fellow novices like myself is a treat for the creative writing community. The website, www.nanowrimo.org, is a far better teacher-over-your-shoulder than even the real thing. By signing up, I allowed my trials and tribulations to be seen by the thousands of participants at any give whim. The idea that the public could be watching me was exhilarating, yet extremely frightening. For those first few days when November still smelled like fall, I thought that I would definitely get this novel done, because I didn’t want to look bad in a community I so badly wanted to be a part of. [opus1]But then again, I did just end a sentence with a preposition, so where do I find the nerve in thinking I’m good enough to write a novel, much less be applauded for it?
I often made up dreams (you know, the kind when you are just about to fall asleep, but are fully aware of your senses, and can just guide yourself through the thoughts) about what would happen had I wrote this novel. Obviously, I received the acclaim of MSU and the surrounding community. After being thanked by LouAnna for inspiring the students and residents, I was whisked off to NYC to start the dream of what I’ve always wanted- to get my work published. Although none of this is true (dammit), it couldn’t hurt to dream, could it?
Actually, I should’ve been spending those moments that were embodied in dreamland writing away so I could get to that particular spot. In Nanowrimo speak, it didn’t matter that I was an English and creative writing major, or had a background in writing at all. All walks of life found their niche within the month’s goal, constructing what was ten times better than my own work. One of the best things about my attempts at Nanowrimo was the humility I gained because the fact that I couldn’t finish a page made me realize I still have a long way to go.
Was I really so blind to relinquish all thoughts of school and work in the name of novel writing? I laugh at myself now, because it seems as if I was a silly teenager in the early days of November, looking to write an irrational number of words, instead of the worldly and knowledgeable 20-year-old face I’m wearing, adjusting to the cold hard facts that I just failed at something I attempted.[stocking]
The group on Facebook for Nanowrimo is 14 members strong. I get e-mails from the regional group leader, asking me if I’d like to bring my laptop or scratch pad to a local coffee shop to converse with fellow novel-writing folk and be inspired to write those last 49,908 words that I still have working inside of my head. (Honest! I’ve got all the ideas, but only 92 words have actually made it onto a page. No one said novel-writing was easy…)
And as the reader happens upon this, a new month has ascended, and the National Novel Writing Month has ceased, thus ending my hopes that I might finish the novel. Although my tale might echo many others who had to give up for a variety of reasons, there are success stories among the almost 60,000 participants. It might not be interesting to some that there is a website and an organization that devotes itself fully to the shaping of authors young and old attempting to speed-write their way through an entire novel. But isn’t that what all writers have to face- knowing that not everyone is nearly as interested in what they may produce as they might want? [trash1]
It’s a curious way in which a story becomes a novel. The possibility of the impossible, a theme found in so many of the great books we’ve become accustomed to, is perhaps the greatest lesson Nanowrimo gives. By encompassing oneself wholly, perhaps a novel really can be achieved. One of these days, I might finish this novel. My opus, as was Mr. Holland’s, might be a lifelong journey that culminates near the end of my career. Or perhaps I’ll follow in the footsteps of Mary Shelley and Zadie Smith, writing a masterpiece (Frankenstein and White Teeth, respectively) at a tender age. Whatever I do, only the chronicles of Nanowrimo will know for sure.