Well, I feel like I’m not really ready for this. I had all these plans for everything I was going to prepare and I COULD have finished it “yesterday” since I define a “day” as whatever time elapses between periods of sleep (which means I probably would have stayed up until 2 or 3 trying to get everything worked out, but I’ve “pantsed” National Novel Writing Moth before and I’m clearly about to do it again. Which means I’ve just made it all up as I went along rather than planned anything out before. The fact that I have ANY writing prompts and bits of inspiration prepared before today is a friggin’ miracle on its own. Sure, each group wound up being far-fewer words than I expected (about 4000 instead of 8500), but it is still a lot of work to come up with prompts that don’t completely suck. It’s even more work to come up with inspiration since most of mine tends to be little things that happen during a day that give me an idea rather than something I can discreetly isolated and point out.
The thing I’m still going to do, even though I wasn’t able to get it done ahead of time, is outlines for both the stories I’m working on, along with a review of last year’s NaNoWriMo project since I’m re-doing it this year and a bunch of research for the romance novel I’m writing because I’ve never written a romance novel before. I have a lot to learn and think about yet and that all still needs to needs to happen before I can start. I’ve still got all day off of work and another three full days free on top of that, so I’m confident I can still do all of my daily writing and do the research I need to do. I’m confident in a lot of things and, if I’m being honest, I’m also pretty confident I wrote a check I’m not going to be able to cash this year. I’m looking at an estimate of anywhere between ninety-five thousand and one hundred twenty-four thousand words this month. The most I’ve ever done is about eighty thousand and that was with the support of my new girlfriend, a few extra days off spaced throughout, and a great deal of emotional fortitude. This year, I’m short the girlfriend and emotional fortitude, but I’ve also stepped up the game.
Like I said on Saturday, the fact that it feels impossible only means it’s going to feel great when I hit that goal before the end of the month. If I fail, at least I tried. I’ll probably still set a personal best for “most words written in a month,” even if I also set a world record for “most stress contained in a human body” during the same period. It’s going to be a good time. I don’t mean that sarcastically. Flippantly, sure, but the distinction feels fine enough that I can still earnestly try for my goal if I’m flippant instead of sarcastic. Flippant is a defensive mechanism. Sarcasm is defeatist. I believe in my ability to pull of stupidly big stunts and that’s exactly what this is. No more sense in dreading it now, though. I’ve got work to do.
To all of you embarking on a NaNoWriMo journey this month, be it 50,000 words, a smaller personal goal, or some big honkin’ idiotic goal like mine, I wish you the best of luck! Remember, the point is to get writing. Whatever that means for you. Figure out a reasonable goal, something that will be challenging but not impossible, and then shoot for the stars. Even if you don’t believe in yourself, know that I believe in you. You got this. I got this. It’s going to be crazy and difficult, but it’s going to be a good experience. Go for it!
There is a beginning to everything. For a lot of people when they’re coming up with a story, it starts with an idea. From there, you need to decide where it’s happening. Today, as you start working on your National Novel Writing Month Project, take that initial kernel of an idea and make it bigger. Develop it. Do what you can to spin it out into something bigger. Not the whole story, that’s what the novel is for, but whatever little thought, mental image, lightning bolt of inspiration, or bit of conversation sparked this whole project. Take that and see what else you can get out of it. While your story will likely grow and change as you develop this idea over the month, this initial thought will go a long way toward direction what kind of story you wind up telling.
As one of my favorite songs by my favorite musician, “Take Courage” by Andrew Bird is exactly the song I go to when I’m feeling wiped out and like I can’t keep working. If I stop whatever I’m doing and give it a listen, from beginning to end, I can usually find a way to keep going after that. The slow build, the lyrics, and the beautiful instrumentation mix to create a song that softly picks me up, sets me on my feet, and then lets me choose when to start moving forward again. I can’t promise this will heal your soul and destroy whatever is getting in the way of you writing, but I can promise it’s a good song and it’s worth taking the seven minutes of this song to stop for a while.
The best advice I’ve ever gotten, that I’ll ever give, and that probably exists in the entire universe when it comes to writing is this: Write. It is that simple and that difficult. Do it bird by bird. Art should serve life, life should not server art. And so on. Just sit down at your desk, on the floor, in the bathroom, at the coffee shop, at the kitchen table. Then write. One word, then a second, then a third, and then go for entire sentences. Once you get those down, aim for paragraphs. After that, try to fill a page. Stare at the empty space that needs to be filled with text and then ruthlessly crush it with as many words as you can. Find the switch and flip it. They don’t need to be good, who cares if they’re bad, just get them out. Put them down. Stop carrying them inside you and store them somewhere else. On a page or in a complicated bit of lightning and processed rock. Don’t make excuses, do your best to avoid thinking, and just get to work. Like I paraphrased from Neil Gaiman above, “This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.”
Get on that.