By Susanne Marie Poulette
Yes, we’re already 5 days into NaNoWriMo, that is, November’s National Novel Writing Month. This means that we only have twenty-five days left to write 50,000 words, that is, if we haven’t already put our noses to the grindstone, or more specifically, to the keyboard.
NaNoWriMo issues a challenge to write 50,000 words from the beginning to the end of November. There are write-ins across the nation where future bestselling authors are gathered, hunched over their electronic devices, pecking away, each creating that coveted magnum opus that is sure to seal a deal. Whether writers are grouped or individual, the NaNoWriMo website provides an online community of support and motivation. The idea is to get the 50,000 words written. No procrastinating, no excuses, no kidding, period. The stated goal is first draft completion, not perfection. Editing and revision take place later on, during some other thirty day marathon.
I’ve noticed that some writers pooh-pooh NaNoWriMo. Maybe they’re purists, or realists? Others say it’s just the right catalyst they need to get their ideas from gray matter to finger tips. If NaNoWriMo motivates folks to follow their dreams, so be it. I think writing leads us to discover our creativity and yields a sense of accomplishment, whether or not our coffee-stained, dog-eared manuscripts find their way to a bookstore shelf. Writing for the pleasure it brings.
What do you think? I’d love to read your comments.
I know I couldn’t write 50,000 words of quality work with unforgettable characters in just 30 days. Hats off to anyone who has done this. You are a better writer than I am. My own novel, coming along on the SS Slow Boat from China, has lived about 2600 – 3000 days, and is still a work in progress.
For anyone interested, Writer’s Digest has an online article, NaNoWriMo Prep: 30 Tips for Writing a Book in 30 Days, by Jessica Strawser. Click on the boat to follow the link and learn more. ~~
Speaking of writing novels, and sorry about this lame segue, I recently had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Pulitzer Prize winning author Anthony Doerr, thanks to the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Library. Doerr’s book, ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 77 weeks, to date. If you haven’t read the book, I won’t spoil it. I will give the basics, however. This story takes place in France during World War II, with a blind French girl, and a German boy with a genius for radio waves (which exist, but which we cannot see).
Doerr explained his writing process for this novel, and rather than thirty days, this one took a decade. (Ten years! Be still my heart, there might be hope for me yet.) He described his writing as putting together pieces of a large puzzle, beginning with his time spent in France garnering ideas, imagery, story line, and characters, and his research in period history as well as the nature and physics of light. His book is written from two main points of view, and his chapters switch between the two main characters, and then alternate in time, non-sequentially from before, during, and after the war.
Many of the 187 chapters are short, some just a single page. Doerr said he did not write the chapters in the order that a reader would read them. For instance, he worked on the ending long before he wrote the middle chapters. Sometimes he worked longer on the German boy’s sections, and then on the blind girl’s story, following wherever the muse took him.
If interested, go to Doerr’s website to read some of his work online, and watch actor Damian Lewis reading from Doerr’s story “The Deep.” Click on Anthony Doerr’s photo to reach his website. ~~
It seems remarkable to me that Irving hand writes all his novels. He explained that handwriting allows time for fewer mistakes, in a pace that he believes is right for him. Going slowly, he takes a long time to develop characters with whom one can sympathize.
Irving told Shaul Schwarz of Writers Write that he not only writes in longhand, but he uses both sides of the paper. He added that when he was writing THE CIDER HOUSE RULES he came to the realization that he writes best when starting with the ending of the story. Irving said this technique “never lets him down.” He writes the last sentence of a story, and then “writes toward that sentence.” Fascinating, but it boggles my linear mind.
Irving’s first novel, SETTING FREE THE BEARS, was published in 1968. THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, Irving’s fourth, won the National Book Award in 1980 and was his first international bestseller. In 2000, John Irving won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for THE CIDER HOUSE RULES. For more about John Irving, click on his book to link to his website. ~~
Whether writers are pounding out 50,000 words in thirty days, or taking more time, as described by John Irving and Anthony Doerr, the point is, just go ahead and do it. It’s your story, from your heart, you’re the boss of it, and no one can tell you it’s wrong. As my dear friend Peggy says, quoting Wayne Dwyer, “Don’t die with your music still inside you…” If you have a story to tell, find your voice, take as long as you want, and enjoy sharing it in your own good time. I’d love to read it.
© Susanne Marie Poulette