“Like a body rising to the surface from great watery depths so
Kendall began to wake up,” is one of my
favorite lines I wrote for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this
year. The challenge is to write a small
novel, 50,000 words or greater. I wrote
25,000 words; my first attempt at a lengthy story. My novella is called, “The Making of Clay,”
and it follows Clay and his wife Kendall through a character arc involving
fracking, kidnapping, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), guns, drugging, and
a small deli. In the process of writing
for NaNoWriMo I learned (at least) 3 things.
Writing is hard work. It’s a cliché for a reason. On the one hand the process is engaging, engrossing, challenging and soul-stirring. The meat of the process involves hammering out a story with plot, characters and setting---all that stuff we learned about in elementary school. For myself that part of the process was the most difficult. For example at one point I had all the characters established along with how they were connected to each other. The problem was that the storyline necessitated them coming together. I wrestled for days before I came up with a device that would motivate them to be in the same place at the same time.
My appreciation for professional writers greatly increased in this process. As did my questions about how they write. In a tome of say six-hundred pages; such as a Ken Follett novel, do the writers keep a chart of characters physical traits: eye color, type of lips, body shape? Do they map out intersections that characters will go through? I can’t comprehend that they would keep all that info in their head.
Anything can be found on the internet. I investigated wheat farming and found that much of the world’s wheat is produced in
China. I researched rape drugs (ala Bill Cosby) and
even found sites that described the best way to kick open a door. A believable story involves some aspect of
research whether it be via interview or internet.
“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying. (Steven Pressfield, The War of Art).” My daughter said to me, “Dad, I feel like you and Glenn (a close friend) always choose these high goals and then you don’t finish them!” The point I told her is to have the goal and go for it. The sad thing would be to never dream the dream or set the lofty goal. This process reaffirmed for me that anybody can write the novel, travel the world or paint the painting. The problem is that most people don’t do the work.
I will participate in NaNoWriMo again next year. I’m shooting for 50,000 words. I’ll dig in on November 1st and push hard til the 30th. It was a disciplined challenge. The process and fruit of the process were well worth it. I’m already wrestling with story ideas. The process continues---the work goes on.
“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.” ---Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles