Last night I watched a documentary called ‘Running the Sahara’ about three guys who ran the equivalent of two marathons a day, across the Sahara Desert. Fascinating story, but mostly I watched it because the novel I’m writing takes place mostly in the desert and I wanted to get as close to the desert as I could.
But after I finished the movie and was trying to fall asleep I kept thinking about this month. November is a month where many writers, myself included, participate in a form of insanity called NANOWRIMO or National Novel Writing Month.
The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. A month with only 30 days and a major holiday in it. That works out to 1,667 words a day. Piece of cake right? For some folks maybe. I write fairly quickly – some days that might only take me a couple of hours. Other days it takes me a full six hours (or more) to write such a piddly amount of words.
But it’s a great process and works for me (short term). Writing everyday that intensely involves my subconscious in a way that skipping a couple of days (like taking a weekend) doesn’t. It brings me surprises: like cool things in the world I’m writing about, wondrous events that happen in the story which I could not have predicted and strange characters who appear – demanding to be part of the story.
Now many writers do this very intelligent thing called planning. Some even call it outlining. Surprisingly, we call them Planners. They’ve got their entire novel plotted out and characters thoroughly explored before they take a step into writing the novel.
Me, I’m a Pantser. As in writing by the seat of your pants. I want to be surprised by what happens. I figure if I’m surprised then there’s a chance the reader will be too. I might do some thinking about the world I’m writing in – especially if it’s fantasy or science fiction and I’m making the whole thing up. I might write a few pages of character background. I might watch a few documentaries which inspire me. But mostly I leap in and get things moving as fast as possible, trying to cause as much trouble for the characters as possible. My goal is to pull as much of the plot from the murky depths of my brain as is humanly possible and get it on the page so I can mold it farther down the line.
So, I’m participating again this year. I usually do it twice a year. This fall I started a week early – last Monday – and if I’m lucky I’ll also finish a week early. Just in time for Thanksgiving break and the chaos of my daughter being at home. And if I’m lucky, I’ll have the bones of the last book in a series, ready to have the muscle, veins and skin applied.
If it’s nice to me, I might even brush its hair.
Then, I’ll look around with horror at a month’s worth of non-vacuuming, piles of mail, papers, etc. And we’re not even acknowledging the dishes. There will also be mountains of clean laundry. I can do laundry and write at the same time! Not so talented at multi-tasking with the other stuff.
So, off I go. I’m a week in and behind on my word count already! I foresee a couple of twelve hour days in my future. Bring on the tea and chocolate!