I’m just going to say it: so far, NaNoWriMo is going great for me. I’m doing everything wrong, everything I remind my students, ad nauseam, not to do—I’m telling more than showing, cheaping out on sensory description, failing to use character tags as effectively as I could, lollygagging (emphasis on gagging, I expect) with my dialogue, using adverbs a little more heavy-handedly than I ought. And it’s FUCKING AMAZING how much you can get written when you just don’t worry about MAKING ART.
I’m having a GREAT time. I love every damn flawed word I write. It’s so much fun to just focus on plot and vomit words down on the page—and to know that I can delay the revision process till much later, if I want. Or not at all. There’s a heady freedom knowing that there’s no stakes attached to this “novel.” I don’t agonize over the words the way I do when I’m writing poems, or even my “real” stories—here, I’m just racking up the word count. If I can’t think of a more elegant word for when my character feels emotionally bankrupt and friendless and dorky, she just says she feels “crappy.” And I’m totally ok with that.
Why? Partly because she’s a teenager, and teenagers are not particularly known for their emotional depth and elegance in articulating the way they feel. Partly because I know that this “novel” is an exercise in stamina and persistence. And partly because I know that even if I write the lousiest, lamest, most derivative novel this November, that’s ok. Because it’s practice writing. It’s making me sit down every day and prioritize my writing over everything else. And face it, that’s what we writers need to do.
And you know what else? I would love my friends to read this novel when it’s done—because it’s cool in its way—and its aesthetic is so not me (at least I don’t think so) that it would be interesting to see what my friends think. The way sharing writing with friends used to be—something you did for fun (instead of something you did because you’re concerned with publication)… Geez, when you have no expectations about publishing, you’re crazy free—like going to Kroger in a skimpy tank top and no bra when you’re a 46DD kind of free.
Something else I like about this novel is that it’s definitely not like most young adult fiction that seems determined to be depressing, dystopic, and dysfunctional. This is about a girl at a new high school who likes to write poetry and who finds a guy at the school who like to write it too. Sure, there’s bound to be heartbreak, but no one is going to be shooting people with arrows and trying to stay alive so your district can eat a little better the next year. My characters are basically happy. How’s that for innovative?
I think, honestly, overall, there are some good ideas in my story, and I actually kind of love my main character and her relationship with her Mom—they have an amazing rapport, and I like writing them together. (Maybe I’m Mary-Sue-ing the hell out of them… somehow I have no problem with that. ) Actually I like all my characters. None of them has disappointed me, and I don’t expect them to. They’re just cool people I’d love to hang out with… that’s what fiction should do, right? Make you fall in love with the characters and want to Netflix and chill with them?
As I think about it, maybe there’s some real potential in this book that it could become something awesome at some point (with massive revision, let’s not kid ourselves—it desperately needs the artist’s/ critic’s eye leveled against it, and all of its blemishes to be smoothed away with the writer’s equivalent of Clearasil). But again, if it doesn’t go anywhere, that’s ok too.
The main point is, it’s fun. And I feel like there hasn’t been a lot of fun in my writing this past year. I’ve definitely had some whimsy, but not out-and-out fun.
It’s fun to break the rules. I possess such a serious attitude towards writing in general—I’m so concerned with making art, and creating something that will resonate with Important Readers (like editors and other academic creative writers and journal-reading types), that, frankly, it’s kind of constipating, artistically-speaking.
This novel, in contrast, is the Dulcolax approach to writing. Anything can happen. Characters can do stupid shit and say the unexpected thing—and I can worry about making it work later. I’m going to go on those writing tangents—I can be a little more plot driven and not obsess about creating these finely-wrought (overwrought?) characters who gnash their teeth in their sensitivity. Sometimes my characters have whole paragraphs of dialogue that doesn’t seem to go anywhere. OMG, the dialogue doesn’t drive the story forward! Oh, the horror! You know what I say to that? So what.
And my characters laugh and smile a lot. And they gaze at each other intently. Yeah, I know: I really need to expand their action repertoire. They need to do more than laugh and smile and gaze intently at each other. They need to “inhabit their space.” (I tell my students that all the time about characters in their stories and plays—make them physical beings, block their movements, blah blah blah.) I know I need to move their asses around more effectively and get them from place to place with a bit more style.
But not right now I don’t. And why is that? Because it’s my novel, and I can.
Even with the “minor” setback of the exploding Coke Zero that decimated the motherboard in my desktop computer yesterday and the possible permanent loss of 1200 words (and potentially everything else I’ve ever written—though I’m really trying hard to have faith that my data is safe and not freak out and imagine the worst, as is my nature to do), hasn’t really fazed me. In fact, it’s not even a real loss… it’s like I’ve “temporarily misplaced” 1200 words—sure, they comprised a few really good scenes with some funny dialogue—but hell, if the scenes are gone for good, there’s more where that came from. Because I feel like the Mount Vesuvius of language—there’s just so much inside of me oozing out everywhere—even if I actually really have lost those 1200 words, that ain’t no big thing.
To have this experience in my writing life is remarkable and wonderful and really weird for me. It makes me wonder what I could accomplish in other areas of my life if I just gave in to the fun and didn’t care about being proper and appropriate and sensible and practical—maybe I would be as grandiose and giddy as I feel now.
We’ll see how I feel next week—maybe by then NaNoWriMo will get harder, maybe I won’t feel so Mount Vesuvi-esque with my language… But as of today, I have logged 6899 official words so far—which technically counts the 1200 I lost, if I’m remembering correctly, but since there’s still a chance my data is safe, I’m counting them.
And if they’re really gone, like I said, it’s ok, I’ll just write more to catch up.