November was a busy month of keyboard tapping for me. I wrote a novel as part of National Novel Writing Month. It sounds untrue as I say it, but actually did it. I wrote a 50,000 word manuscript. I managed to write more than I have ever written before, and an easy order of magnitude more than I have written in the last 20 years.
It all started a couple of months ago when my wife decided to write a novel during NaNoWriMo. She has a book and a half written and in various stages of polish, but she had an idea for a book that departed radically from the mysteries that she had been writing. I’ve been kicking around book ideas in my head for a couple of years, so this was a great opportunity to find out if I could actually write one.
I spent most of October generating an outline for my book to be. It was really more of a bloated synopsis, but I sketched out every scene over the course of 18k words. Honestly, this chunk of writing alone felt like a huge accomplishment. As I wrapped that up, I started to feel like hitting the 50k mark in November was doable. Sure, it was going to be over twice as many words, but I like a challenge.
So, November first came and I dove in with both feet. Each night I would read a scene or two from my outline and rewrite them with more detail and dialog. I had no idea if this process would work for me, as I’ve never even attempted to write a novel before, but night after night, I managed to make my quota. The big thing about writing quickly for NaNoWriMo is that you have to turn off your internal editor and just crank out words.
I suspect that I benefited from my strictly amateur status while writing this book. I found myself writing in a style that surprised me, not at all as I had expected. Since I really feel quite ignorant of the craft of writing, I just decided to go for it anyway. So I wrote as consistently as possible and left the rest to the inevitable further drafts and edits.
Of course, there were difficulties. I actually finished my story at 45k words. Then I had to write another 5k words of extra scenes that I will integrate during the next draft. These unplanned scenes were very difficult to write and that last week was the worst. Then, on the final night, my internet connection died. So, at 9 o’clock on a stormy friday night, I stole wireless from a local coffee shop while kneeling outside on their patio (they, and everywhere else I could think of, had already closed). I managed to eek out that last update and validate my work, but it was close. Disaster averted.
Now I am the happy owner of a 50k word draft 0 for a cheesy science fiction novel. I’m going to take a break from it for a while. I’ll read some of the books that I’ve been accumulating over the last month and recharge my brain. Then, I’ll start taking what I have and turning it into a real first draft. I figure that I’ll repeat that a few times before I let someone else tell me what dreck it is and help me get it a little closer to something good. Yes, I have a lot of turd polishing in my future.
Who knows, maybe someday I’ll actually be able to say that I’ve published it.