The Month We’re All Writing Novels

I’m working on my novel now—yes, still—and, I have to say, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one. I’m at the tail end of this flu, and once my hellacious cough stops waking my neighbors and scaring small children, and once I don’t have to carry a box of tissues at my hip, I should be okay to return to my writing space. In the meantime, since I don’t want to spread my germs to all the other writers there, I’ve been made to write at home. At this moment you’ve caught me with all lights off except for my red-shaded lamp, Pandora on speakers, pages spread on the floor, laptop above… hoping it’ll click.

Lots of people are writing novels right now, since it’s NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. I’m all for others doing it, even if I can’t get it to work for me. (Here, you can see my archives from 2007 when I tried it… and failed.  The pages I wrote were completely trashed, BUT the heart of that novel mutated and became something better: Imaginary Girls. No words remain from that disgusting junky draft, but I think my first pass at it had to happen to come up with something way better. So I guess you could say that my one failed attempt at NaNoWriMo wasn’t entirely for nothing then, was it?)

But, it’s funny, there are some who seem almost offended by the existence of NaNoWriMo. Have you read this piece on Salon.com?  I’m enjoying the comments, where people defend anyone’s right to write a novel. And why not?

If I could write a whole first draft in a month, my life would be golden. As it is, I write my first drafts slowly and way too carefully, and I carve deeper into the heart with each new draft. And there are many drafts—believe me. I can’t write without looking back—if I want something worthy of keeping, I have to look back and back and back until I get it right. This goes on line by line, paragraph by paragraph, and page by page. Once I reach the end of a chapter, I can move to the next. But this can take weeks. Often this means getting a nice and polished chapter ready only to have to cut it later. That sounds like such a waste of time. I wish this weren’t the case with me, but I’ve learned—through trial and error and whining to publishing professionals—that this is how I write and I may as well stop complaining and just do it. At least I know.

As a writer, what I like about NaNoWriMo, even if I’m not participating, is how so many people around me are focused on writing—often for the first time. I love the fever of it. I love the passion. It’s writing for writing’s sake, and that’s why I’m in this in the first place. Yes, I’m jealous of those who can write a coherent-enough first draft in just 30 days, but that doesn’t mean I can’t cheer you on, too.

I’m off to do some more carving to my manuscript now—oh, and down some more cough syrup.

So are any of you writing a novel this month?

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