NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) begins on Monday. I've been looking forward to this all year long and have had an idea kicking around in the recesses of my mind since probably January. And how, here it is, oh so close to the start and I am having a panic attack.
It started yesterday when I was outside with the Gator Girl. I was mulling over my story in my mind and realized that I had no plot. I have a genre (young adult urban fantasy). I have a main character name (Gwendolyn Chase). But I don't really have a plot. And by 'don't really have a plot', I mean 'don't have any semblance of a plot.'
So I started panicking about how the hell I intend to reach the 50,000 work mark by the end of November when I have absolutely no idea what's going to happen in this book.
I think that means I'm running right on schedule.
Besides, I know one thing that won't be happening in this book. No way, no how, will Gwendolyn Chase be falling in love with a vampire. Especially a sparkily vampire (vampires do not sparkle. I'm sorry but that's just lame). So that's something, right? Knowing what won't happen in the book can only help me figure out what will happen in the book. Right?
She also will not fall in love with a werewolf (no matter how chiseled his abs are). Or a zombie because that's just disgusting.
But other than that, I'm not sure what will happen.
Last year when I started NaNoWriMo, I only had a genre (chick lit) and a character name (Lavinia Pryce) and that turned out all right. I ended up with well over 50,000 words. So there's no reason to think I can't do it again, right?
A few people outside this blog know of my upcoming endeavor. The thing is, outside of this blog, I don't project myself as a writer. When asked what I do, I usually go with one of two answers. The first is "I fold jeans." The second (used when I am feeling particularly discouraged about things) is "Not much." I never say "I am a writer."
And this is probably why I will always experience an epic fail on my writing endeavors.
But that doesn't mean people out in the world don't know what I do. Some do and some times they tell others.
At school, it was the social studies teacher who would let the cat out of the bag. I don’t know how it came up. I don’t know if she stood at the front of the classroom saying something like, “today we’ll talk about the ramifications of World War II and by the way, your English teacher writes books in her spare time” but whatever she told them, a group of students would eventually end up in my classroom begging for details. I even let a group of kids read the prologue to Effigy once. Most of them really liked it. One, I recall, hated me (and, you know, the rest of the world so her hatred wasn't anything personal) was less enthusiastic than her classmates but, hey, that's life.
At The Store, it generally happens when someone stumbles across me doing something a little bit bizarre. Like the time I was supposed to be covering the fitting rooms and was instead stretched out across a folding table writing down on a paper towel a scene I’d just thought of. The AssMan then (different than the one we have now) showed up, saw what I was doing then asked what I was doing. When I explained, she very awesomely answered, “Oh. Well, do you want me to get you some actual paper?”
When they find out, they ask questions. This can be good fun but it can also be both bad and sad when you have absolutely nothing to report (over and over again) besides, "I'm working on it." But then comes the question that I have now come to dread:
"Can I read it?"
I used to say yes to this question because feedback is awesome. Feedback is critical. It’s great to have people who are not you read what you’ve written because they find the mistakes that you’re too close to the novel to see. Tim Gunn once described this phenomenon as someone who’s lived in the monkey house too long. They don’t notice the stench after a while and need someone to come along and point it out to them.
Not my favorite metaphor ever (because I hate to think of my writing and the word 'stench' in the same thought) but hey, it's an accurate one nonetheless.
And in spite of that, I don't say yes anymore when asked. I had a bad experience that's made me a little (a lot) hesitant to say anything but no.
It was an experience I thought at the time that I had properly processed and gotten over. It was an experience that every time I think I’ve put it behind me, it comes back at some inopportune time to make me feel crappy all over again.
It was an experience which cost me one friendship and damaged some others.
It was an experience I'm not interested in repeating. Once bitten, twice shy, you know?
So I say no.
Instead I apologize, play the 'it's not you, it's me' card and then walk around with this crappy feeling in my chest (although lately, I guess it could just be this lingering cough that's taken up residence there).
It sucks because as much as I appreciate feedback, and I do (even if it involves likening my work to Jane frakking Austen), I don’t want to take the chance of ruining something I have with someone else. I like my friends; I want to keep them. This is unfair to the people who have successfully read things for me in the past because I don’t even want to ask, nor have I asked, them to read anything new. Of course, they could all be very grateful to be released from such a burden but that thought actually makes me feel both weirder and sadder so I think I'll just move on.
The reason I bring this up to begin with is that the cosmos, it would appear, have banded together to try and kick my ass back in gear because this was my horoscope today:
Show your work to a wide variety of people. You will get overwhelmingly positive feedback, and you'll also learn what you might want to improve upon in the future.
I don't want to ignore my horoscope, especially when I can so aptly apply it to my life (did I ever tell you about the one that reminded me to return my overdue library book?), but I don't much want to put myself out there either.
And yet, horoscope, I see your point and recognize how nice it is of you to try and encourage me. Overwhelmingly positive feedback is really nice and I do like it when my friends call me and leave me voicemails starting with "Oh My God! I can't believe what happened in that scene! It was so awesome!" or write me emails saying, "You're not allowed to get up from that computer until you've finished writing this book because I have to know what happens next!" or tell me to my face, "I can't sleep some nights because I'm lying awake, wondering what's going to happen next."
These, by the way, are all true stories. I love my friends dearly. I hope they know that.
Anyway, if you're participating in NaNoWriMo this year, I wish you the very best of luck. If you want to friend me or follow me or buddy me or whatever it is it's called, you can find me on their site under M.J. Fifield.
30 Days, 50,000 words...
So grab the leftover Halloween candy (or just keep the stuff you were planning to hand out), sugar up and let's get this party started.