“Nate, I was wondering. What are you going to write during NaNoWriMo this year?”
Boy, am I glad you asked! I just happen to be psyching myself up for it right now, it’s like you’re reading my mind. This year, I’m going to write about—
“Hold on. Maybe you should tell everyone what NaNoWriMo is, first.”
Oh, yeah. Sorry.
So NaNoWriMo is a contest you can take part in. It stands for National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to see if you can write an entire 50,000-word novel within the month of November. It’s not a competition with other writers; it’s a competition with yourself. You “win” if you finish your 50,000th word before midnight strikes on November 30th, whether the story itself is finished or not.
In fact, it doesn’t need to be a complete novel, it’s really more about the word count. You can write the first third of a super long novel, or you can write dozens of short stories. You can even come up with your own goal entirely, like if you want to write a screenplay rather than a book, as long as you equivocate it somehow. It’s really more about self-discipline and prioritizing your writing habit above all other needs for thirty days. So this year, I’m going to write about—
“Have you done it before?”
“NaNoWriMo. Have you done it before?”
Yes. And this year, I’m going to write about—
“I just think it might be nice to have a little background, that’s all. For your readers.”
Background. Right. Okay…
So the first time I tried NaNoWriMo, I was in my late thirties. This must have been about eight or nine years ago. I started writing a kids' book called Heroic Legendary Steam Knights. It… didn’t go so well.
“With a title like that, I’m not surprised.”
Well, it was meant for kids! Like Teenage Mutant Ninja— Anyway, it wasn’t jelling. I gave up within two weeks. And I discovered how relentless the pace was. Punishing. It amounts to 1,667 words—about 7 double-spaced pages—a day. For me, that amounts to about three and a half hours of writing a day. If I missed a weeknight, it meant seven hours of writing on a Saturday. But I feel good about this year. This year, I’m going to write—
“What about the other years?”
Oh, come on.
“No, really. This can’t be only the second time you’ve tortured your—I mean, the second time you’ve taken on this challenge.”
No, it’s not. I’ve taken it on a number of years, now. Okay, so the second time I took part, I can’t remember if it was the next year or two years later, but I know I was thirty-nine. So, seven years ago. I wrote the first draft of Murder on the Orion Express. And I finished. 50,000 words.
No shit. But the first draft had a lot of, um, issues. It took me another four years to hammer it into the self-published version all ten of my fans know today.
“Jesus. Four years?! I mean, wow. It must have royally sucked.”
Well, I mean, the groundwork was there…
“But that’s all you did for four years, was—”
Hey, hey, now! I didn’t say that was ALL I did. I also worked on some other projects. And just who are you, anyway?
“I’m no one. I’m just a lame device you’re using to write this lame blog because you couldn’t think of another way to move this subject forward. So what other NaNoWriMos have you done?”
I tried again the following year. That was 2014, the year of my fortieth birthday—which also happens to be in November, by the way.
“November is really big with you.”
“So which book did you write that year?”
Flame Tarek and the Galactic Cup. It was about a princess who becomes an indentured servant on a space station after running away from home because she’d rather be a SPAESCAR pilot than a queen. Young adult science fiction. Maybe? I dunno, it has this fundamental flaw of being too mature for a kids' book and too immature for a young adult book. At least, that’s what the agents told me. I had high hopes for it, still consider it to be the best novel I’ve ever written. So this year, I’m going to write—
“Wait, what? The best novel you’ve ever written was Flame Tarek and the Galactic Cup? Let me read it.”
Maybe someday. It needs another revision. Or two.
“Let me read it, now.”
Listen, bodiless voice friend, I want to publish it just as much as you do, but the agents were right. It still needs work. I’m not gonna give my readers a half-baked loaf.
“Well, thanks for sparing me. So what else you write for NaNoWriMo?”
I tried writing a novel called Conjoined. It was about these conjoined twins, and one of them developed a tumor, and they’d both die unless she opted for a surgery that would kill her and allow the other to live. They’d go on this road trip with the hospital’s front desk guy during their final month before the potential surgery and—
“Jesus fucking Christ.”
Yeah, I didn’t finish it. And then I skipped a couple of years. And then I wrote the second Alan Blades novel, The Big Cryosleep, last November. 2019. And it’s coming out this November. 2020.
“So it only took you one year, this time. Not four.”
You’re really good at math.
“Thank you. But one year, huh? Does it suck, then?”
I hope not. I mean, I don’t THINK so? I think it’s better than the first one, actually. Oh, but I forgot to mention! Before I ever even tried NaNoWriMo, I wrote my first novel, ever. Another Year in Little Denmark. It was set in Solvang and this guy who worked at a small bookstore—
“No one cares about that.”
But it was my first novel. Ever. It was my baby. I just wanted to mention that—
“All we care about is what you’re writing next. Let bygones be bygones. So what are you going to write for NaNoWriMo this year? Are you ever going to tell us?”
I’VE BEEN TRYING TO TELL YOU THIS WHOLE TIME!
“So then what is it, already?!”
Alright, are you ready for this?
I’m not going to write one novel this year, it’s going to be a bunch of short stories with these same seven characters. It’s about this group of spacefaring vampire hunters. There’s an Atlantean mage, a ditzy android, a templar knight, an ape marine, a seductive gargoyle, a space cowboy, and a cavewoman. They travel from planet to planet on a spaceship named Emma, who used to be married to the ape marine. Before she was a spaceship. Oh, and there’s gonna be this one story where the gargoyle and the cowboy are in a brothel, and—
“I’m sorry I asked.”
Hey, I think it’s gonna work. I’ve got faith in this one.
“I guess you have to have faith in it if you’re going to crank out seven pages a day. No matter how wackadoodle it is.”
You said it, my bodiless voice friend. You said it.