Tuesday, November 1, 2011
It is National Novel Writing Month, according to this site anyway. The goal is simple: Use the month of November to write that great novel you have been contemplating all your life, but just haven't found the time to complete. Write everyday, get at least 50,000 words, and you will win the prize, the prize being included on the wall of the site, and a rough draft on your hard drive. It sounds so simple, so easy. It seems anyone can do it! Hell, for 2o minutes today I contemplated giving it a shot. Several years ago, in a fit of creative gusto, I started my masterpiece, pounding away page after page, hoping to get something that could stick. It was a great time, and for a while, it felt I was going to finish. I actually got about 120 pages down, diligently working to what I thought was going to be a grand masterpiece. And then I stopped. Why did I go to all the trouble and abandon something I was so passionate about? The answer was simple: the work sucked. It was cliche ridden, sentimental, and poorly executed. I knew nothing about fiction writing except how to read and enjoy it. My vocabulary was limited. My phrasing was embarrassing at best. But most importantly, I didn't have the patience to actually draw my characters in a way that was anyway believable. I jumped over the details to get to the big stuff, and then flew through the big stuff to move onto the next chapter. Writing is a craft that takes time, skill, and an acute attention to the details that make a life interesting. It can't all be plot and drama. The small moments are more telling than the pivotal ones, and thankfully I realized it was not for me. (I eventually realized that if I have anything in me, it is a screenplay.) So I wonder, here at the beginning of November, if it is truly worthwhile to race the days to produce something called a novel? Can this actually be done, and if so, can it really be readable? Because that is the final goal, something people actually want to sit down and enjoy. I would think a better choice would be a novel in a year. That seems to me to be an accomplishment: completing something that isn't over before the next payday, but one that truly tests your skills and fortitude. I have heard many writers say they don't trust authors who publish a new work each year, and, having read endless amounts of Stephen King as a teen, I think I agree. But perhaps Nanowrimo will get someone who might never have given it a try that inspiration to create a masterpiece. I applaud the idea, if not the product.