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Vorpal blade, check. Tum Tum Tree, check.  Uffish thought, definitely.  ‘Tis brillig, people.  And at midnight Nanowrimans around the globe will be unleashed on a quest to seek and slay their own symbolic monsters.  The fact that our vorpal blades are pens and keyboards doesn’t minimize the danger and excitement of the adventure at all.

Think about all that will have changed by the end of November.  Our next president will have been elected. Many of us will have snow.  More importantly, thousands of characters and stories will exist where previously there was only blank paper and empty screens.  Think of that for a minute – it’s really awe inspiring.  Out of nothing, something is created every time one of us writes a story, or a novel, or a poem.  Every time we create a character.  Don’t tell me there’s nothing new under the sun, that every story has been told.  Maybe the themes are the same, maybe the plots have similarities, but every story has the individual stamp of its creator. 

My personal preparations are modest this year.  There’s no point laying in writing snacks because the kids will inevitably consume them anyway.  I haven’t outlined or plotted.  I don’t even have characters in mind.  Yet.  But that’s part of my challenge to myself this year.  Exactly what kind of story can I create in 30 days, out of a few mismatched and random ideas?   What I will do today is the following:

1.  Prepare a calendar with daily word count goals so I can regularly check my progress against the master.

2.  On the same calendar, schedule in writing times.

3.  Choose 12 chapter titles at random from the classic rock vinyl album collection.

4.  Draw one Tarot card as the ‘flavor’ of the writing.

5.  Create a couple of characters to begin with.

6.  Write through the scene I have in my head for Gatekeeper so that it can safely simmer for awhile until my attention can come back to it.

That’s it.  Before I go do those things, though, I’d like to introduce a writing buddy of mine who has decided to venture into the blogosphere. Kawnliee is a mere stripling, only 20, but he has more unfinished works on his desk than I do – something like five complete drafts of novels, not yet polished to his satisfaction, two incomplete novel manuscripts, and a ton of short stories.  He’s also a Nanowrimo veteran.  Anyway – when you’ve got a minute wander over to his brand new site and say hi.  Also give him a proverbial motivational kick in the behind – he needs to get some of those novels off to agent land.

Oh, I almost forgot – my weekend writing challenge is to dive into Nanowrimo and get in the requisite number of words.  Good luck, all!  May the muses be with you.  Feel free to share your Nanowrimo plans in the comments.

Okay.  Nanowrimo talk again.  I couldn’t help but notice that several people who found their way here yesterday did so via a search on fear Nanowrimo

Ask yourself, of what are you afraid, exactly?  Possible ideas that flock to my mind:

1) Failure.  Starting to write words and then running out of time/energy/fingers/ideas.

Okay.  This could happen.  Digits have been severed before.  But most of you have 10 to start with, so you could still type with 8 or 9.  Be careful of knives and car doors, and you’ll be okay.  Seriously, though – there are more than enough minutes in the day to get this done, and as soon as you begin the Nanowrimo process ideas will come flooding in from everywhere.  Weird people will show up in your life, just asking to be characters in your book.  Events far stranger than fiction will occur.  All you have to do is write it down.

2) Humiliation.   Your friends are going to laugh at you if you don’t complete.

Don’t worry about them, they’re just jealous.  And afraid.  If they were brave and creative like you they’d be trying this themselves.

3) Word Deprivation. Where are all the words going to come from?  

That’s just silly.  There are millions of words.  Probably.  I haven’t counted them, but I know there are lots.  And it’s okay to use most of them more than once.

4) Dearth of Ideas. I don’t have any ideas.

Yes you do.  

5) The Nanowrimo Monster Guilt Monkeys coming to take me away…

Well, this one might warrant a little fear. If you write every day they will leave you alone.

What I’m trying to say is this:  Fears of Nanowrimo are about as valid as fears of the mythical Jabberwocky.  (Which, if you recall, was efficiently slain by the beamous boy.  Calloo, Callay!)   Completing Nanowrimo is more a matter of priorities than anything else.  You clear your schedule, you sit down with your chosen writing implement, and you write. And you write, and write, and write, until your word count for the day is done.  And then you eat something fattening and go to bed.  This is meant to be playtime, people.  The writing arena where critics don’t count, where plot is optional, where the words are free and at your disposal to use in any way you’d like.

If you’re a purist who creates literature during this festive event, more power to you.  I tried that last year and it sort of spoiled my fun.  In my opinion, this is not the time for anything that requires serious thought or research.  I know some of you have carefully crafted outlines and plots and characters in preparation for this event.  I am in awe of you.  For the rest of you who have done no preparation at all, I’m here as living proof to tell you the feat can be accomplished with little or no forethought.  Three Nanowrimo wins under my belt, and I think I maybe had a character or two in mind when I began one of those novels.

If you’re a newbie this year, I do suggest the following:

1.  Figure out where in the day you’re going to carve out time to write, actually write it on a schedule, and stick to it.

2. Find a place to write.  If you’re like me, and your writing space is smack dab in the middle of the family common space, with pianos and electric guitars and TVs and cats, get some headphones and a music device.

3.  Connect.  If you have a local Nanowrimo community, go to the meetings and the write ins.  The energy created by a group of writers with a common purpose is invigorating.  If you don’t have that, connect with online buddies.

4. Don’t expect a lot of support from your family and friends.  They may whine a lot.  They may not be quite as inspired by your quest for a Nano win as you would like.  Ignore them.  They’ll survive without you for a month.

5. Engage in word wars with somebody.  This has been a life saving device for me in the past.  If you have a writing buddy online, set up a chat window and engage in 30 minute word wars.  It’s amazing how much you can get done when you’re racing to write as many words as possible.  Surprisingly, sometimes those words are actually quality words, that push you past a writing block or problem.  

Well – I have more to say, but I have to go to work, so that’s all folks.  I leave you with this reminder:

Nanowrimo is meant to be fun.  Proceed in the spirit of play, and all will be well.

Two weeks ago at dinner I announced to my family, “I’m not going to do Nanowrimo this year.”  Three hands froze in midair, forks halfway to mouths.  David said, “Can you do that?”  in the sort of voice he’d employ if I’d suggested a voyage to the center of the earth.  I breezily brushed the disbelief aside, listing all of my very good reasons for not doing Nanowrimo this year.  These reasons are still valid, by the way:

1.  I’ve done Nanowrimo for three years now.  Every year I ‘won’ Nanowrimo, but ended up with an unfinished draft of something with enough promise that I wanted to complete it.  Which means that I already have two novel manuscripts on my desk – one which I’m actively revising, and one that is on a road trip through my subconscious trying to find itself and its true purpose in life.  (The other is actually done and seeking publication.)

2. Nanowrimo will distract from the work in progress.  There is no way I am going to find time to work on Gatekeeper while simultaneously tackling 1667 daily words on another project.  (I know – I tried to do it last year)

3. I was reminded by my family that Nanowrimo is just a teeny bit hard on them. 

4. I already write nearly every day.  I don’t really need the motivation.

As I said, due to the above very good reasons, I planned on “just saying no” to Nanowrimo this year.  But weird things started to happen.  As I was completing my morning yoga routine the other day, I put my hands together and bowed my head, planning to say “Namaste.”  What came out was “Nanowrimo.”  I kid you not.  Then friends started bugging me.  “Come on, it’ll be fun,” they said.  I found myself inexplicably on the Nanowrimo site two days ago updating my Buddy List and my profile.  And then I read this post by Jamie Grove at How Not to Write.  And at that point it was all up with me.

So here, for your reading pleasure, are my very valid reasons for succumbing to the lure of Nanowrimo:

1.  I owe my writing soul to Nanowrimo.  It’s true.  It took me ten years to write my first novel, the one that is still staring at me from its cage in the desk drawer and demanding a little daylight.  After that I was a sporadic closet writer, starting things and not finishing them, writing in isolation, never believing that in the demands of my hectic life I could ever find time to really write.  My first year of doing Nanowrimo taught me that 1667 words a day really isn’t that hard to do.  It taught me how to bash my critic over the head and lock him in the cellar.  It brought me into community with other people who write.  It taught me to stop being so serious about writing and to have some fun.  It produced a volume of work to which I have been steadily adding ever since.  It made me come out of the closet and declare myself as a real, bonafide writer with dreams of being published.

2. All of my friends are doing it.  I have been unsuccessful at creating a writing community in this town,  (honestly, I haven’t tried all that hard, but still)  and I love the sense of community that happens with Nanowrimo.  And this year, so many of you that I’ve come to know through your Blogs are participating too and I want to be in on the action. 

3.  I’ve been getting way too serious about my writing lately.  I think ‘intense’ and ‘obsessive’ would be accurate adjectives, in fact.  So stepping back for a minute, taking a breath, and writing just for the fun of it would probably be good for me and my writing.  A dose of creative adrenaline, that’s for me.

4. I’m extremely competitive.  Okay, this is probably not a good reason to engage, but it’s definitely a contributing factor.  I can’t just sit by and watch everybody else write their little hearts out while I watch from the sidelines.  It just ain’t in my nature.

All of which led to the decision to get on board the Nanowrimo train.  And all of which left me, also, with the dilemma of being three days away from the starting gate with absolutely no idea of what I’m going to write about.  I thrashed around a little bit with my journal, and came up with a plan.  “Keep it fun, keep it stupid,” I said to myself.  “The last thing you need is another unfinished novel cluttering up your brain.”  So I came up with a plan.  12 song titles chosen at random from my son’s classic Rock album collection as the chapter titles.  One Tarot card chosen at random as a guiding theme.  An idea pulled from PostSecret as a starting point.  And then see what I can do with that, just as an exercise in creativity.  Not for Publication.

Fun, I thought.  And then I had an IDEA.  You know, the kind that comes out of the blue, gets in your face and screams  “write this!  Write this!”  Here’s the problem:  it’s a GOOD IDEA.  The kind I would get all serious about, and have to turn into a Great Work of Literary Fiction.  And I still have these other works in progress on my desk…

Conflict.  Ambivalence.  Psychic Dissonance.  So far I am resisting the good idea.  I’ll write it down, tell it to wait its turn.  And then I guess we’ll see who’s stronger – it, or me.

Success.  Mind you, writing my 2000 words this weekend was sort of like trying to lose weight – gain a little, lose a little, pack the words on, and take them off again, an ongoing journey in trying to get just the right tone for the scene I’m writing. Probably double the final total went through my keyboard in one form or another. And then, almost out of time to meet my goal, I finally managed to get out of the way of the story, and it all clicked into place.

Tomorrow I have another goal – 10 more queries out to agents. (There ought to be a song for that, to the tune of “10 green bottles hanging on the wall”, but I’ve exhausted my creativity for the day.)   I’ve been waffling about doing Nanowrimo this year, as I’m afraid it will take me away from the work in progress.  So today I told myself, “Self, if you want to go out and play with the rest of the kids, you need to at least take care of your marketing first.”  So today I made the list, and the goal for tomorrow is to get my little packages together and send them out into the big wide world to seek their fortunes. 

In the meantime, I found some inspiration in the form of these quotes taken from an interview with Jonathan Kellerman: 

“I won a literary prize in 1971 and published my first novel in 1985. Despite two previous publications of nonfiction books, I regarded myself during that 14-year period as a failed writer with a really good day job (clinical psychologist/medical school professor). The only inspiration I can offer is that sometimes an obsessive-compulsive personality pays off.”

(Okay, if Jonathan Kellerman was once a ‘failed writer’ with a good day job, I suppose I can live with that too.)

“Forget “discovery,” “being a writer,” “fame,” — all nonsense and most destructive, all distractions from the core: writing. If you are driven to write and have talent, hard work and drive are likely to help. Experience life to the fullest, be intensely curious. Most important, write. And rewrite. And rewrite. And don’t take yourself too seriously. The guy who fixes your sink is doing something as important — perhaps more important — than you are.”

I can’t think of any better advice than that!

If anybody was playing weekend writing challenge at home, make sure to check in and let me know how it went!  (TrudyJ, how goes it with those 30,000 words?  Digital Dame, where oh where are you?)

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