NaNoWriMo is an idea that’s growing exponentially. It’s in its ninth year (I’m doing for the fourth time) and now it’s being taken seriously by the literary industry. I’ve noticed a change in the quality, as well as the quantity of the work that’s being produced (how do I notice it, you ask? I read excerpts, and the quality of the writing and the situations has, in my mind, improved).
Proof? This year, we’re getting pep talks from established writers. I flipped out over Tom Robbins, because I’m old enough to remember when he was the Hot Young Writer — Still Life with Woodpecker was on my reading list along with The Accidental Tourist and A Prayer for Owen Meany.
Now, peeps, I’ve got a letter from Sue Grafton! Well, hullo. I’m writing a mystery series, and she’s the author of the mother of all mystery series – the alphabetized exploits of Kinsey Millhone. Here’s what she’s got to say:
For reasons absolutely unknown to Science, many writers begin their novels with a burst of enthusiasm. There’s a measurable outpouring of time and energy. I experience this myself. At the outset, my optimism rides high and my hopes are boundless. This book…this book, I say to myself…will be clever, inventive, fresh, original, witty, and profound. My characters will be complex, textured, and amazingly true to life. My prose will sing. The pacing will be relentless, yet the story will ebb and flow in a manner that will produce both thrilling surprises and quiet moments where the reader can reflect on what’s gone before . My descriptive passages will be evocative, bringing scenes to life in a way that will later translate into a movie sale with all the attendant fame and glory and big bucks. (Personally, of course, I’d never sell my character to Hollywood, but you get the point…)
This hype, this glorious feeling of Omnipotence sometimes continues unabated until Chapter Two. By then, most puzzlingly, I might notice something is amiss. You may find yourself in a similar position at this point in the game. Whether you’ve written a thousand words or ten thousand, you may find yourself faltering. A little note of doubt may creep into your consciousness. This, I assure you, is not about the merit of the work you’ve done so far. It’s an artifact of your own insecurities. You’re probably beginning to wonder what your mother will think of those steamy sexual passages. Perhaps you’re suddenly uncertain your immediate family will appreciate your rendition of their annual drunken Christmas antics that result in all those accusations, renunciations, and slamming of doors. You might suspect that your mate (and let’s not even talk about your kids) might take a dim view of what’s visible through the little window you’ve opened onto your soul.
This is my advice. Disregard the nagging voice piping up from the back of your brain. You aren’t stupid. You won’t fail. You won’t humiliate yourself (that much) in front of all your family and friends. The important point is to keep up your momentum regardless of the fact that you might stumble now and then. Most people you know have never written a novel at all, let alone pounded one out in a jam-packed thirty days.