I used to write.
I still consider myself a writer, one of those writerly types, a storyteller, a guy who fibs for entertainment’s sake, or education’s sake, or just to win an argument in my own mind. (Trying to cut down on the latter.) But I haven’t actually strung very many fictive words together — much less sentences or paragraphs — in quite a while.
I used to be good.
Not published. None of my screenplays got filmed. I had some actors actually say lines I wrote while on stage nearly twenty years ago, but that was back in school and they needed to do it in order to get their passing grade and move on to things more interesting. Some marginal success in writing competitions — won some local-only awards and placed more than a couple of times in national Big Time™ contests — but I haven’t won, and the producers who called to inquire never really called back. But I enjoyed writing, and I imagine that some few others enjoyed reading those strings of words I made.
I want to recapture that.
This blog is just so that I can exert myself in public. Or what I imagine might be public, despite my day job as an internet professional telling me that most blogs are abandoned in the first 30 days, and most that survive rarely achieve a readership beyond Mom, bless her heart. So, Mom, this blog is so that when I write, it is published in the etymological sense of the word — the Latin publicare, “to make public.”
I want to publicly challenge myself.
In November of every year there is a little-known event called “The National Novel Writing Month,” or NaNoWriMo. The idea is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, from November 1 to the end of the month. That’s about 1700 words per day — eminently doable, but rarely done. I like round numbers and I tend to use two words when one will do, so I’m shooting for 2000 words per day, for 30 days. That should give me something like the first draft of a 200 page novel. I know I can do it. I have written an entire 92-page screenplay over one weekend. It’s a typical romantic comedy, but the plot hinges on the Y2K bug so it’ll never get made — and it has some of my best scenes and lines. I’ve never once rewritten any of that screenplay after that weekend.
I want to learn to rewrite.
For almost everything I do — programming, homemade ice cream, bad jokes — the first draft is the final draft. I suck at rewriting, because I like creating new things from nothing. I’m pitiful at motivating myself to perfect good things that already exist. I need to be better. Writing a novel in such a way that I’ll need to rewrite it for me to tolerate reading it… that might just be the recipe.
I figure I need to stretch these writing muscles. To rebuild what has atrophied, to reinvigorate what has stagnated, and to focus what has been redirected. I can’t run a marathon tomorrow, but I could certainly run a marathon at some point. It’s not beyond me. NaNoWriMo is going to take some practice. Here’s what I plan to publish here:
- By Sep 26, a 2000-word story. Just to see if I still can form a sentence or two.
- By Sep 30, another 2000-word story. Because the first story was probably something I had already thought out.
- Oct 1-7: two 2000-word stories. Good grief. I suppose I need to do more of this.
- Oct 10 & 14: each day, one 2000-word story. Cuz schedules are important.
- Oct 16, 18, & 21: each day, a 2000-word story. All of this writing will occur before I start work for the day, but I can take multiple days. Note to self: figure out how to not fall behind on work.
- Oct 23, 25, & 28: each day, a 2000-word story written that morning only. Still before I start work; still without falling behind on work. Can I do it? I need to answer that question.
- Oct 28-31: nuttin’. You ain’t gonna see nothing here. I’ll be holed up, plotting and characterizing and generally panicking.
- Nov 1-30: Novelizing, bee-yotch. I’ll post updates. Sample bits. Whimpering and cries for help. Desperate requests for caffeine. Etc.
- Dec 1: I will post Cake. Downloadable, delicious Cake. It is not a lie.
Deadlines. Love ’em.
I might find that I cannot do this. I might find that my clients and co-workers who depend on me are being short-changed, and I can’t allow that sort of selfishness so I must re-adjust my aspirations. It won’t be the first time reality won.
But it’s worth challenging. Reality, on occasion, does back down.
And now, I need to go.