(Editor’s note: This one I like for the idea I was covering, as well as the focus on trying to balance it with a student lifestyle. I’ve tried to do this each year since, but the same rules apply – if it’s not school work it’s a draining job or an utter lack of motivation. I have gotten some loose notes together for future books out of it though, so it’s never been time wasted. This foul year of our Lord, 2008, I’m going to try to set it up where I spend an hour each day working on it and maybe more if I hit the zone. Money is going to be tight in Portland after all, so anything I can occupy myself with that costs nothing is a solid choice.)
Les’ magnum opus: coming in three weeks?
Originally published in The Daily Cardinal, November 5, 2005
As is true with most writers, I frequently bite off more than I can chew when taking on new writing projects. Ignorant of the fact that there is only so many words I can produce in a day I take on new essays, reviews and rants on an almost daily basis, driven by the self-challenging urge that got me started writing in the first place.
And now I’ve given into that masochistic streak by signing on to a brand new challenge: National Novel Writing Month, which gives writers the task of creating a 50,000-word fiction novel by the first of December. It’s one of the most ambitious projects any writer can undertake – and so far, I’m under the impression it’s not one most writers can do.
According to the NaNoWriMo Web site the project adopts a “kamikaze approach” to creating a novel with an emphasis on word count over style and editing. The process is designed to be highly informal, encouraging participants to “value enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft” – as long as it meets the word count it can be about anything or written in any style.
When I began the project, I had high hopes for the month as visions of gigantic cups of coffee and an endlessly clicking typewriter filled my head, giving into the old adage that everyone has a great book inside of them. I can see myself held captive to the mystic blend of adrenaline and caffeine that interesting writing is born of, putting together piles of paper that could win Pulitzers and impress the opposite sex.
Unfortunately, that glorious image has so far failed to come to fruition – and not just because I’m out of coffee filters and my typewriter is back at my mom’s house. For starters, when I committed myself to the project I failed to recognize that I was in the middle of midterm season, facing a term paper, exam and thousands of little reading assignments that no one wants to do but come back to haunt you on the final exam.
These class assignments heavily obstruct the novel writing process – when you spend all day hunched over a computer in the library trying to form an opinion on John Stuart Mill or agriculture in ancient Rome, there’s little energy left in your brain to write a detective of fantasy book. Even writers have their limits, and there comes a point where all you want to do is sit down and watch “Law and Order” reruns after six hours typing.
I also failed to fully comprehend the fact that in order to write 50,000 words in a month you need to have something worth writing 50,000 words about, and a topic has so far escaped me. It’s not easy to stick with something when new ideas come up all the time – no sooner do 500 words get written on a western than an idea for a crime novel comes up, only to be abandoned after watching “Lord of the Rings” for the fiftieth time.
However, there are still three weeks left until the deadline, and the one thing years of writing college essays teaches us is that a ridiculous amount of words can be written in a very short time and not have to make any sense at all. There’s still time to play with these ideas and go off on new tangents, even if that time has to war with classes and “Law and Order” reruns for my attention.
We’ll have to see what comes out of this effort in the remaining three weeks of the month, be it a Pulitzer Prize, a pile of gibberish or some anecdotes that may come in handy for another story. At the very least, it’s something to keep my mind off of writing that term paper.