Observations on writing a novel (#nanowrimo)

1. Writing a novel is not easy.

2. Writing a novel is one of the best things I will ever do.

National Novel Writing Month kicked off at midnight Nov. 1, and I was there with many of the rest of my peers, abstaining from fun Halloween partying in order to be alert and ready to write when the clock struck midnight.

Except … I was tired. My luck that would happen: I burn the midnight oil on a nightly basis, so working late hours typically comes easy for me (I worked until 12:30 a.m. or later – sometimes much later – for six years editing newspaper pages, so I can do it). Despite my fatigue, I was caught up in the excitement and seeing others hard at work pushed me to want to at least get something on the page.

So I wrote for an hour just to say I did it, and decided to call it quits when my laptop battery started to die and I decided I was too tired to grab the cord.

Woke up early the next morning and went to Chris’ in Athens. Chris and I made the decision to write our books together, so this was the beginning of a week of hardcore writing. He got tripped up by Thanksgiving break last year, so he needs to get ahead to plan for that. I have a client deadline next week, so I need to act as if I won’t have any time to write at all then (bonus if I do, of course.)

Me and Chris at the 80s bar in Athens on Saturday night, not writing ...
Me and Chris at the 80s bar in Athens on Saturday night, not writing ...

Of course, hanging out with friends and dancing at the 80s bar were calling our names, and Sunday begged for a trip to IKEA in Atlanta … I did think to bring my laptop with me in the car to Atlanta and knocked out another 800 words before the battery died (oh why did I leave my laptop car charger at home?)

Around putting together IKEA boxes and cooking dinner and washing dishes and skipping a workout (as I went to put on my running shoes, I realized they were in my living room … in Charlotte. Doh!) we both were very productive. Chris worked hard on character development and plot outlines (the launch of his new web site last week left him without much time to prepare for the writing) and I dove in some more, ending the night with about 3,500 words. A daily “quota” is 1,667 words, so this put me ahead of schedule.

I have noticed the beginning is the hardest part. Even with plot outlines and character sketches and plans, plans, plans, taking that initial step is always the most difficult. That’s when I learn my characters’ true voices. How do they express thought, how do they talk to each other, what are their actions and how can I get my readers to see between the lines?

In my limited process so far, here is a list of things I believe one should avoid when trying to concentrate on writing a novel:

– 80s bars
– The Amazing Race and any other television
– IKEA (lamp purchased to go hear writing space, though)
– Lowe’s (unsuccessful search for light bulb for lamp purchased at IKEA)
– Twitter (OK, it’s a catch 22. Twitter is a GREAT way to get and give support from other #nanowrimos, but it’s also the ultimate distraction). I’ll add Facebook and other networking means to this as well.
– Beer
– Blogging (hmm. Is it a conflict of interest to say that here?)

My writing space at Chris' apartment. Like the throw pillows Carissa and I gave him?
My writing space at Chris' place. Like the throw pillows Carissa and I gave him?

This morning, I am at 4,200 words, only 600 away from my daily goal, and my characters are beginning to talk to me. No longer does it feel forced, but now my hands are simply recording the scenes running through my head. I’m sure it won’t be all smooth sailing the rest of the 28 days (did I mention deadline next week?) but I’m doing it: the one thing I have always wanted to do. I am a writer. I am a novelist!