One of my favorite lines in the movie Beetlejuice has the displaced urban dweller Delia Deetz, moving to the country. She’s an amateur sculptor, and when the movers are handling one her pieces she cries out to them:
Careful! That's my sculpture. I don't mean "my" as in "I bought it." I mean I made it.
The mover is unimpressed. Poor Delia Deetz. She isn’t an artist for herself. She does it to impress others. And I wonder how many people who indulge in any craft, visual arts, music or writing, can say they have no desire whatsoever to impress anyone. I don’t know. So I will only speak for myself.
I love that line from the movie because it reminds me of me. I don’t think I would ever say this to anyone, but I might wish to: Hey hand me that bag, my books in that bag and I don’t mean my book that I’m reading I mean I wrote it!
Do you know what? When I’m writing at Starbucks, most of the time I am really engrossed in what I’m doing. But one in a while I look up and wonder if anyone wonders if I’m a writer.
Look at that guy with the laptop. Look how serious he seems, how hard at work. I’ll bet he’s a novelist.
Yeah right. This is Starbucks, which guy with the laptop are you talking about?
I am confessing this because I am 11 days into National Novel Writing Month. I have been thinking about this, looking forward to it just about all year. It’s when a bunch of people resolve to write a novel in 30 days. 50 thousand words is actually pretty short for a novel. But 30 days to write it is quite a feat. And to me, there is little else more fun and thrilling.
When I first heard of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo if I’m not inclined to pad my word count, I thought it would be impossible. It was a few years ago. The thought of it seemed completely unattainable.
But a few years later I thought I would try it out. A few days in, my laptop crashed. I finished the story almost a year later. Then last year, November 2012 I gave it another shot. And I did it. I wrote 77 thousand words in 30 days. I was proud of myself, astounded, thrilled and plenty of other cliché adjectives. The story was just a first draft, rushed toward the end and needing considerable revision But I did it, something I thought couldn’t be done, I exceeded my expectations.
So I’m doing again this year. And I am learning something. Novels are like children. Parents know this. No two are alike. The first one might be easy, and the next one might not be so much. Am I having trouble this year? Not getting my word count in. I had several thousand more words by this time last year, but I am still exceeding the 1667 words a day to reach 50 thousand in 30 days.
What I don’t like isn’t the word count. I am not pleased with how the story is getting out. I have written a few great scenes. When I’m done with them I feel high. But a lot of the rest has been exposition. There is a lot of backstory for this novel. I don’t think that backstory should matter much and the writer should just tell the main story. Get the conflict driving the plot as soon as possible without mucking about explaining what and why things are the way they are. But I have found my characters talking a lot, explaining things to each other, which means explaining to the readers. To me, that’s lousy writing. And I am guilty of it.
No matter, it’s a first draft. I’m still having fun with it. I am having fun waking up at 4:45 every single morning and writing for two hours. Really, I like it. I wish I could do this every day of the year.
I hope I can convince myself of this. It’s tough going this time around. But I don’t want to give up. I have a very cool ending in mind for this story. There are megathemes of forgiveness and redemption. I just need to keep making my way toward that ending with each scene advancing the plot.
I whipped this blog up quickly without revising it much because most of my energy is going to the story this month. Thanks for sticking by me. To be honest, it really means a lot to me to have fans. Fans, yes. But I write mostly because I just love to do it. To me, it’s like having a scorching itch, like a peeling sunburn under a burlap nightshirt, but the itch is inside of my brainpan and the only way to scratch it, the only way, is to write. That’s my main reason, it scratches that itch.