This time five weeks ago, in celebration of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I promised the readers of this column and lots of other folks that I would finish the novel I’ve been working on for the past several years during the month of November.
The results are in.
First, let me say that I agree with every NaNoWriMo participant who has ever complained that November is a terrible month to be forced to write a novel. The switch from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time is exhausting. Then there’s all the Thanksgiving hoopla, which is—unfortunately—somewhat overshadowed by all the Christmas hoopla. And let’s not forget late-autumn chores like taking down the Halloween decorations and raking up the last of the leaves and putting away the lawn furniture.
Whew! How can anyone even consider trying to write something challenging during such a hectic month? Why not wait for a quiet, boring month like January or February? The devil who sits on my left shoulder was in total agreement. Wait, wait, wait, he kept whispering in my ear. But the angel on my right shoulder whispered something else. Just do it.
I decided to start with something easy. So I changed the novel’s working title from “Sugar,” which is the name of the dog in my story but which seems pretty boring, to “Half a Mile to the Dollar Store.” Then I set up my laptop computer on the coffee table. I left it open with the novel’s word document pulled up, hoping that every time I walked by I would feel guilty enough to sit down and write.
And you know what? The plan worked.
Mostly because I fired the demanding little editor who lives inside my head and who’s always insisting that I read over what’s already written and try to make it better before writing anything else. “Put your fingers on the keyboard and type a few sentences,” I told myself. “They don’t have to be good sentences. Just new ones.” I watched in amazement as the word count in the bottom left corner of my screen grew higher and higher. I rejoiced every time I passed another “thousand.” But still I wondered whether I would make it to the magic 50,000 mark before the month was over.
And I would have, except for one thing.
The last day of November was blessedly chaotic. Two of our children and their spouses were here. Both grandbabies. Grand-dog Taco. A million dirty dishes. A sticky kitchen floor. A refrigerator crammed full of little smidgens of leftovers. Weather so pleasant that I couldn’t say no to a quick bicycle ride. But none of those were the reason I didn’t put my fingers on the keyboard.
It was all because Auburn played Alabama that afternoon. You don’t have to be a fan of either of those teams, or even of college football, to agree that it was probably one of the most exciting and astonishing games ever.
I, for one, didn’t have the interest or the energy to work on a novel or anything else once the game was over. So November slid into December with the word count of “Half a Mile to the Dollar Store” standing at 45, 009. The bad news? That’s almost 5,000 words short of my goal. The good news? The novel is almost finished. I suspect that I may type THE END before I reach 50,000 words. Which I’m certain will happen before Christmas.
Then the next hard task—revising an okay novel until it’s a really good one—will begin.
(December 8, 2013)