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Tabula Rasa

GC and I are about to embark on National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo), which starts tomorrow and continues for all of November. The object of the exercise is to write the first draft of a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

Last year I had a plan. I knew what my novel was about: two people who meet through online dating and ultimately experience a catastrophic clash of personality disorders. GC didn’t have a plan. He just started typing on November first and didn’t stop until the 30th.

When it was over, we reflected upon what we would do differently next (this) year. I vowed to have a more fully fleshed-out plan; I’d know the whole story before I began writing it. GC said he’d have some idea of what his story would be about before he started.

Well, here it is, October 31st, and neither one of us has a clue what our novels will be about. I’m not even sure mine will be a novel. Maybe it’ll be a collection of short stories. Maybe it’ll be a stream of consciousness. Maybe it’ll be a memoir. (All of these things would be technically against the rules, by the way. It’s National Novel Writing Month.)

Some of the things I liked about doing it last year, which is why I’m doing it again this year:

1. The emphasis on quantity, as opposed to quality, effectively disempowered my inner critic and my inner perfectionist. Sure, they still moaned and despaired about the quality, but they weren’t allowed to re-read, change or delete anything.
2. My constant need for material got me in the habit of seeing everything around me as potential material, which of course it is. I was thinking like a writer.
3. I liked the momentum that developed from writing every day, as opposed to my usual method, which involves waiting for inspiration and getting very little written.
4. After I got a single copy of my novel published (six months after I wrote it), I sat down and read it and I was surprised to discover I kind of liked my book. Sure, there were some cringe-worthy bits and glaring plot holes and tangents and dropped balls, but there were also some interesting twists and details, some witty bits and good ideas.
5. There’s a book on my bookshelf with my name on the spine!

10 comments to Tabula Rasa

  • Lucy

    Hi Zoom! You’ve inspired me to try Nano this year! I’m rather excited. Good luck!

  • Lucy, I’m so happy about that! Misery loves company. (Just kidding. It’s fun in its own semi-masochistic way…)

  • deb

    I might try it too.

  • I like improv but maybe one year I’ll give it a go too.

  • Have fun! I just don’t have it in me this year, but maybe next year. I am going to attempt NaBloPoMo instead though.

  • Deb, I’m so excited that you’re doing it too!

    Pearl – you’re a pretty prolific writer without it, so you probably don’t need the kick in the pants that nanowrimo delivers. 😉

    Finola, I’m selfishly happy that you’re doing NaBloPoMo instead, because now I can read your blog posts every day.

  • Grace

    That’s what I need — a spine!

  • felonius bunk

    yeah, and you write like a thinker your initial revulsion at the fate accomplis had roughly the same perspective lack that people have who can’t proofread their own stuff cuz they remember is at it was intended to be (just like parents who aren’t as lucky/talented as you are) remember, write what you know!

  • i like a challenge. and a novel is a different beast. I have on stalled 3/4 of the way thru. I’d like to push one fully out. It’s a good mental exercise to figure out doing plot arcs well. And that’s transferrable to short stories, poems, photos and conversations. I will have a book with my name on the spine next week tho. been shed bore is nearly out.

  • Grace, have you considered doing it this year? It’s not too late.

    Felonius! Hello there. Are you doing nanowrimo this year? If so, we should all get together for another coffee shop writing session. Happy belated birthday, by the way. I thought of you on your birthday (and on Halloween too, of course), but didn’t know how to reach you.

    Pearl – congratulations! Where will we be able to find it?