Tag: nanowrimo



Hey. Howdy. Well the novel-writing thing went well! I did finish, two days ahead of time, with about 51,500 words. It’s about a 200-page paperback if you want to think of it that way. Though as you can see it left me with little excess energy for posting up some poems or any of the other randomness that goes on around here.

I did honestly learn quite a bit about writing – and about myself (yawn) – in writing that novel. Tenatively titled A Trick of the Clouds, by the way. Maybe. For now. The first thing is was finding that could do this at all. I’ve never thought of myself as much of a prose writer. Never really had an eye for dialogue or plot, but I can describe the hell out of a place, so I veered into poetry long ago. But I found that the two writing forms are not mutually exclusive and I could use my poetry chops to expand the prose into new and interesting avenues.

Also, take note: Just because you’ve come up with a great idea or line that you think will define your work, or one of your characters, doesn’t mean you’ll remember it later. This book is littered with ideas, some terrific, some that seemed terrific at the time, that never came to fruition by the end. All these little seeds that I was going to grow and tie together, but then forgot to tie together in the simple attempt to just get enough words on the page. So take notes, people.

Writing 200 pages with words on them is easy. I found it sad, seeing all the NaNoWriMo contestants who had their 50k words done by the end of the second week. It just made me think they couldn’t have possibly put that much heart or thought into it. Yes, Kerouac did it, but he was a genius. And he was on benzedrine. And it was basically nonfiction with the names changed. I’m not Kerouac, you’re not Kerouac.

I barely understood my characters at all by the end of the second week. I certainly wasn’t familiar enough with them to bring them to a satisfying resolution. Now, by the end of the fourth week, and the end of the novel, I was a quivering wreck trying to finish their story. Writing a novel is hard. Especially in a month. Writing something that is totally original might be completely impossible. You just have to take the best of what you have and put it together in a way that is as unique as possible. I got so mad at myself seeing all the passive voice and all the cliched lines pouring out of my fingers. I would moan out loud as I hit the backspace button over “the stars shined quietly” what seemed like a million times. I was almost sick to my stomach every time I wrote “he” or “she” because I felt that I had written it so goddamn many times that the words had become meaningless as descriptors. I would write something and then realize I had stolen it wholesale from another book. This is different than the mass of “inside jokes” and quotes that I included, which was fun.

But then again, this is really a rough draft. Such as it is, I’m pretty proud of it. The ending especially is pretty good. I love my last sentence. There are so many nifty things that I feel so clever for thinking of. So many great moments that feel genuine and make me smile. I think that with some work – after some serious time apart to let things settle – this could really be something. I hope the brave proofreaders who have actually requested to read this will think the same way.

Isn’t life,” she stammered, “isn’t life–” But what life was she couldn’t explain.


Katherine Mansfield, in “The Garden-Party.” I’ve been wrapped up this week in NaNoWriMo, about one-tenth of the way into the novel I will supposedly have written by the end of this month. So far it’s been going quite well; after some early jitters regarding pacing – I felt I was moving much to fast – I have settled into a good rhythm. I hope by next week I’ll really hit my stride. Like most people, I think, I look for inspiration and help in lines and quotes from my favorite authors, little things to provide motivation or jostle the brain into literary life.

One of my most inspirational quotes as a writer is this one from Katherine Mansfield’s short story “The Garden-Party.” Mansfield was a writer who dabbled in epiphany, years before Woolf and Joyce had really stepped into that realm of writing. Here in this example the main character has been slapped on the head with epiphany so profound she’s rendered speechless. I think we’ve all had these moments; where you look out on the world and find it so beyond description that you’re dumbstruck. For me, as a writer, this is what I seek. The irony, if you can call it that, is that it’s obviously quite hard to describe something that is indescribable, so the writer is left in a bit of a quandary. Still, though I think this is what really good literature does, or tries to do – it describes the indescribable.

By the way, if you’ve never read anything by Mansfield and you enjoy books by Woolf, Joyce, poetry by Eliot, etc. – do yourself a favor and pick something up of hers. I guarantee you will love it.