Tag Archives: National Novel Writing Month

It’s a-comin’

It’s getting close to that time of year. Not Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any of those other holidays (though you should definitely remember my birthday on December 31). No, I’m talking about National Novel Writing Month! It happens in November, when people who are insane enough sign up to write a complete novel of at least 50,000 words in a single month. I’m participating for the fifteenth time (good Lord!); I did it for the first time in 2001, skipped 2002 because I was traveling a lot for work, and have done it every year since. And every year I’ve hit that 50,000 word goal. And, as I have done every year since 2007, I’ll be one of two Municipal Liaisons in the Sacramento area. This means that it’s up to me and my friend Katster to coordinate participants, arrange meetups and parties, and what-not.

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Usually this is the part where I beg for money to send me to the Night of Writing Dangerously, but I’ve decided not to go this year. It’s fun, but I’ve done it for five years now, and now someone else can have the fun.

Anyway. This year I plan on writing a total of 60,000 words instead of just 50,000. That means a minimum of 2,000 words per day of November. It’ll be tricky, what with visiting family over Thanksgiving and all, but I’m sure I’ll make it work.

The novel I’ll be writing is called And the Devil Will Drag You Under. I got the title from the song “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat” from the musical Guys & Dolls. My novel has nothing to do with the musical, or the song, really. I just liked the title. It also has nothing to do with the Jack L. Chalker novel of the same name. And you can’t copyright a novel title, so I’m golden.

Usually I put my novel online as I’m writing it, but I won’t be doing that this time around. I’m too excited about the novel and will hopefully one day clean it up and send it out into the world to be published, and putting it online counts as a form of publication, which might get in the way of my chances to sell first publication rights to anyone. So I won’t be doing that this year.

Here, enjoy the song from Guys & Dolls. It’s a fun song, even if, thematically, it has nothing (or at least, very little) to do with my novel.

WheezeNoWortMo: A Three-Part Miscellaney

“I thought you were going to be done with the stinky part by the time I got home,” she says as she enters the house.

“Well…,” I reply, “I thought I was too.”

The house currently smells like wort. I think the smell of boiling malt and hops is heavenly, partially because it brings me back to my twenties, brewing beer with my friends Mike and Dylan (both of whom I’ve lost touch with over the years, which saddens me). Jennifer, though, doesn’t approve of the smell at all. “It doesn’t even smell like beer,” she says. “It just smells like wrong.”

I’m not sure what I can do about the smell, though, because it only occurred to me halfway through the boil to turn on the fan above the stove. I offered to open the windows and turn on the fans, but Jennifer says she can live with it. For now.

Currently the wort is cooling in an ice bath in the kitchen sink. I did a fine job, if I do say so myself, of keeping the kitchen clean while doing this. The cans of extract I placed on a paper towel in case they leaked. The hops were contained to their little bags. The sanitizing solution (because brewing is, according to the book I’m reading, 75% about cleaning) sitting in a big plastic bucket on the floor with a lid on to keep out curious cats. The boiling pot was cleaned and sanitized. So was the lid. And everything that went into the pot at any point is being cleaned and sanitized. Maybe I’m going a little overboard, but better to be over-clean than have skunky beer, right?

The intention with this beer is to make a nice vanilla stout. I’m not sure how I’m going to go about adding the vanilla flavoring. Jennifer has some vanilla beans that she’s willing to let me use. All the recipes say I’m supposed to soak them in bourbon for a few days, then add them at the second ferment. It’s that “second ferment” part that worries me. I have a secondary fermenter, but I’m worried about transferring the wort. Because that’s what I do. I worry. More on that some other time.

I’ll keep you in the loop on the details of the brew, because I’m sure you’re fascinated.

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Meanwhile, this stupid upper respiratory infection can go away any time now. It knocked me out for two days before Thanksgiving, then went away, then decided to take another whack at my lungs last Thursday. Jennifer’s been stuck with the same cold for that entire time (though now she’s just coughing instead of dealing with all the other symptoms). During those few days where I was feeling fine, Jennifer once said, “I can’t believe this cold didn’t stick in your lungs for a month this time.” Me, too. She was also kind of jealous that while she was coughing and hacking, I was breathing clear. That’s usually the opposite of what happens in our household.

Wheeze, wheeze. That’s what I’m doing now. My grandpa used to call me Julius Wheezer, and I have one friend who calls me “Wheezer!” whenever she and I get together. Better than “Geezer”, I suppose.

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Did you know that I participate in National Novel Writing Month every year? I know, it’s like I never talk about it at all! This year, I wrote Love in the Time of Cthulhu and put the entire thing online as I was writing it. You can find it here and read it all if you like. I know, I haven’t mentioned this before. My activities during November are a closed book, aren’t they?

Yesterday was the Thank God It’s Over (TGIO) party for the region, our traditional post-NaNoWriMo get-together where we commiserate, eat, talk about writing, eat, socialize, and eat some more (though I was actually eating very little because, well, I wasn’t hungry — I worked on that resistance muscle, so to speak). About fifteen people showed up, and we all had a good time. Some of us even got up the nerve to read portions of their novels out loud to the group. I did not, because I was afraid of my lungs conking out on me halfway through.

It’s funny that we can get together with these people, the other regional participants of National Novel Writing Month, hang out with them, chat, write, socialize, and call them friends for a month, then not see them at all again for the rest of the year.

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Here, have a picture of two of our cats, Rupert and Sherman. Jennifer took this picture yesterday, and I think it says more about them than I could in words. Click to emcatenate.

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What about you? What have you done with your weekend?

‘Tis the season for (stinky) Holidailies

Passing the hat

If you loved me, you’d donate.

A Shameless Plea for Support

November is right about the corner which, of course, means that National Novel Writing Month (otherwise known as NaNoWriMo) is upon us again. Just in case you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is — and if you are reading this, you probably know me, which means you probably also know what NaNoWriMo is — it’s a month-long frenzy where participants from all over the world sit down and decide to write an entire 50,000-word novel in the month of November. I’ve participated every year since 2001 (though I skipped 2002), and every year I’ve “won” — which is to say, I’ve completed a 50,000 word novel every time I’ve participated. And this year, for the third year in a row, I’m also signing on as a Municipal Liaison, which means helping to set up events and write-ins for NaNoWriMo participants in the Sacramento region; so in addition to writing my own novel, I’m going to be helping dozens of other writers finish their own novels. Insane as it all sounds, it’s actually quite rewarding, and a level of fun that’s probably illegal in some states.

The first year I participated in NaNoWriMo, I wrote a dark urban fantasy novel. I’ve also written a couple of science fiction epics, and, since 2005, I’ve focused on comic horror novels that have epic scopes. I’ve been calling them comic epic horror novels, but I’m not sure that’s an appropriate term. This year, though, I’ve decided to do something a little different, and write a novel that is primarily mainstream. It’s tentatively called Code Monkey! A Love Story with Occasional Monsters. It’s inspired by the music of Jonathan Coulton (and if you haven’t checked out Jonathan Coulton, you really ought to) and yes, even though it’s ostensibly a mainstream novel, it’s got some genre elements in it. I’m planning on incorporating Bigfoot, a giant squid, and at least a couple of zombies. It should be fun. And I’ll be putting my output on line as I generate it.

NaNoWriMo is run by the Office of Letters and Light (OLL), a non-profit organization which is dedicated to inspiring people to reach their creative potential. What I really like about them, though, is their Young Writers Program; through the YWP, the OLL works with schools and communities to get children and teenagers involved in expressing their own creative selves through novels, screenplays, and other activities. In my mind, inspiring the creativity and dedication that comes with writing a novel or a screenplay is a great cause.

So here’s where I’m making my shameless plea for support.

On November 22, the OLL holds a write-a-thon event in San Francisco entitled “The Night of Writing Dangerously”. NaNoWriMo participants from all over the country get together that night to meet, mingle, hang out, write, and participate in a raffle or two. I’m trying to raise $300 so that Jennifer — who is also participating this year — and I can both go. The money all goes to the Office of Letters and Light, of course, so that they can continue their inspiring activities.

To contribute, click here or on the image below:

No matter how frustrating NaNoWriMo can be, it’s always a blast. Thanks to everyone who can support me, either financially or in spirit.

NaNoCruft

I’m sure I’m not the first person to come up with this term. I like to think that I am, though, so I’m going to claim that I am. “NaNoCruft”. It’s the term I use to refer to the bits of prose that you used to fatten up your word count when writing your National Novel Writing Month (or, NaNoWriMo) novel. It’s the stuff that, even two revisions later, causes one of the members of your writers’ group to say, “Huh. You wrote this during NaNoWriMo, didn’t you?”

NaNoWriMo is, for the uninitiated, all about writing a novel in one month. For the purposes of the project, a novel is defined as a work of fiction 50,000 words or more in length. It’s a pretty arbitrary target, but it seems to work for many thousands of people worldwide every November. The number of participants worldwide has been steadily increasing since it was started by Chris Baty in 1999; and the number of “winners” — people who actually make it to the 50,000 word mark and beyond — has also increased. A few published novels, including the bestselling Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, started out life as NaNoWriMo novels, and I think that the majority of the participants in NaNoWriMo share the dream of publishing their novel, having it become a bestseller, be optioned for a film, and so on. It’s why so many of us go on after November to either finish up the novel (it’s common for participants to complain that even though they reached the 50,000 word mark, their story is still far from complete), or to edit it. Some have even gone on to designate every February as NaNoEdMo, and there are usually at least a couple thousands participants in that as well.

Because the emphasis of NaNoWriMo is on quantity and not quality, there are a number of tricks that participants use to pad out their word count, and it’s this padding that ends up being “NaNoCruft” when it isn’t removed during subsequent edits. In my own novel, The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster, which started out as my 2005 NaNoWriMo novel (and I’m still working on it nearly four years novel? Ouch), readers in my novelists’ group have identified several habits that count as “NaNoCruft”. Excessive ruminating, for example; my characters frequently ruminate on events that have already transpired. This ends up with the same events being told two or more times. An attack by monsters is not just shown, but the characters involved talk about it amongst themselves, think about it, and whenever a point of view is shifted, the characters ruminate about it again. And again. And again. I’ve tried to eliminate most of this rumination, but some still remains, and that’s NaNoCruft. Characters of mine also make long speeches about irrelevant topics. This, too, is NaNoCruft. Extraneous characters show up and do things that aren’t relevant to the action of the novel. More NaNoCruft.

NaNoCruft is difficult to eliminate. Plenty of writers fall deeply in love with their own words, with their own clever turns of phrases, with their own characters, and so on; so to eliminate any of them can feel like amputation without any sort of anesthesia. It hurts, so they try to avoid it. And because writers are so deeply entrenched in their work, they have blind spots to their own faults. I certainly do, and that makes it hard for me to track down and eliminate my own NaNoCruft. I’m always surprised when a member of my novelists’ group points out a passage in a draft of STSM and say, “This shows me you wrote it during NaNoWriMo.”

Thus, with its focus on just getting 50,000 words written, regardless of whether or not they’re good words, NaNoWriMo can encourage bad habits for writers that are difficult for the writer to see, much less get rid of. This is not to say that NaNoWriMo is a bad idea. I’ve participated every year since 2001 (skipping 2002), and each year I’ve hit that 50,000 word mark. I fully intend to participate this year. For the last two years I’ve served as the co-municipal liaison for our area, and I plan on doing it again.

NaNoWriMo is great for writers who need a boost getting their project started, or who just want to get some words down. Or who just want to say, “Hey! I wrote a book!” But finding and eliminating the NaNoCruft that creeps into my own novels can more difficult than imagined. So I think that for 2009, the main challenge I’ll set for myself in NaNoWriMo is to avoid as much NaNoCruft as possible during the actual writing, so that when I set to the task of editing the project later on, there will be that much less work for me to do.