Friday, November 2, 2007

Making a Commitment to My (Really Awful) Novel

It's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo: say that ten times fast!) and I've officially made a commitment to write a novel in a month. This is a big deal for me, as I'm a compulsive eraser. I've started dozens of novels. Somewhere around a hundred pages in, I always manage to convince myself that what I'm writing should never, ever see the light of day--and I erase the whole thing and start over. Not this time!

I signed up for NNWM after I saw that my partner in crime, Minion, had done it. The goal is something like 50,000 words in a month. Shouldn't be too hard, right? That's something like 2,000 words a day for a week, if you don't write on weekends. I usually do write about that much per day when I take time to write my novel. The thing is that I do it once a week, not once a day. But this month, I've decided to push all other projects (except paid client work) to the side.

The thing about such a close deadline is that it leaves no time for editing. No time for second-guessing. I can't worry that my plot isn't making sense or my characters aren't deep enough or I always forget to describe my surroundings. I can't stop midway through and think "geez, this is really awful." If I'm writing this fast, of course it'll be awful. And I don't care. I'm giving up trying to write a masterpiece. I've even given up trying to write a halfway decent book.

The story I'm working on now is a paranormal romance novel. Before, I always tried to make this book literary and poetic and sexy all at once. I wanted it not only to be a romance, but a genre-busting masterpiece of contemporary fantasy. Yeah; I've given that up. In this book, the plot will not make much sense. The dialogue will not always sizzle and snap. I might lose my way and wander off course for a bit. Do I care? Nope.

The thing is, I always wanted to be a novelist. But I never quite hit my stride in novel-writing. I never got to the midpoint of the plot, let alone the end. I never allowed myself to have faith in the storyline and see how things unfold. A brand new book idea has the potential to be a brilliant masterpiece, but a book that's halfway through is limited. A hundred pages in, you've chosen your voice, your basic characters, your plot arc. And if you're a perfectionist like me, it's easy to look at the choices you've made and say "that's not good enough"--no matter how sound your choices were.

This time, I'm not doing that. Instead, I'm going to stretch my legs and see what I'm really capable of as a writer.

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