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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Summer camp for writers

Last fall, I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in a month.  At first, I thought, "No way."  Actually, what I thought was "No way" with a highly impolite intensifier inserted in the middle.  It meant writing an average of 1,666 words a day, every day in November.  This, while I was teaching full time, practicing and performing with a band, and trying to have an occasional moment to breathe -- and already writing daily on my other blog, Skeptophilia.

I was encouraged to sign up, however, by two people, one of whom was my cousin Carla, whom I referenced in my previous post.  The other was my former student and current friend Martha, who is a musician and writer of astonishing talent.  Both of these individuals are persuasive like the Mafia is persuasive.  "Let's discuss this like civilized people," they said to me.  "Sign up for NaNoWriMo, or we'll break both of your legs."

So I did.  The result was Adam's Fall, a novel of the paranormal set in 19th century rural England.  I was pleased enough with the result to offer it on Amazon -- you can read about it (or download it) here.  Endeavoring to be gracious in all respects, I dedicated Adam's Fall to Carla and Martha -- because without them, it literally would never have been started.

Anyway, having made it through NaNoWriMo, exhausted but substantially unscathed, I sort of thought I had at least a year to recover, before I'd have to start giving some thought to crafting excuses for why I can't participate this year.  (I was thinking about "I'm planning on doing a lot of laundry in November.")  But the fates were against me -- the leaders of NaNoWriMo have come up with a new event, Camp NaNoWriMo, because apparently enough participants decided that (1) once a year was simply not often enough to go without sleep for thirty days straight, and (2) pain is more fun if large quantities of people are experiencing the pain with you.  So apparently the plan is that August will be a new, additional NaNoWriMo.

Of course, the moment the notice came out, my writing buddies Carla and Martha started clamoring for me to join in.

And I probably will, because I am a weak-spined namby-pamby human jellyfish who wouldn't say "boo" to a goose.  Plus, I have to admit, last year was kind of fun, and the result was gratifying -- besides having what I think is a really fine story at the end, the daily reward of watching my word tally go up and hit the goal was amazingly reinforcing.  It was like going back to elementary school, and getting a gold star every day for a month.

The problem now, of course, is that I have to come up with an idea.  That's always the hard part for me.  I've often wondered where I get my ideas from; they seem to spring, unbidden, from the darkest recesses of my subconscious.  More problematic is that they don't seem to come when called.  I know I have two and a half months to come up with a viable plot, but I'm already fretting about it.  I think I'd like to write something of a post-apocalyptic nature, but that doesn't get me all that far.

Of course, what I'll probably end up doing is what I usually do -- start with a single image, then a scene, then just start writing and see what happens.  I once commented about a story I was working on that I had to keep writing so I could see how it ended -- and more than likely that's the approach I'll take again.  Jump in, see where the current takes me.

No wonder I fret.

I'll end with my favorite quotes about writing.  They seem appropriate.

"If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style.   The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy." -- Dorothy Parker

"Writing is easy.  All you do is stare at a sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead."  -- Gene Fowler

And last, one which could apply to anything, but seems apt in connection with my current pursuits:


"You don't need a parachute to skydive.  You just need a parachute to skydive twice."  -- Jessica Northey

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