Mostly because I had other fish to fry. However, my experience writing SILVER BROWN (and subsequently 2021’s project for National Novel Writing Month, which was an offshoot of SILVER BROWN) came up as a topic whilst chatting with somebody I met once on one of those crazy apps. The conversation fizzled soon after I brought up the talking ferret, but it got me thinking about what kind of grand artistic endeavour I should tackle next. During the holidays, I spontaneously jotted down something in the notepad on my phone to that effect, which I’ll have to wait until the end of the academic year to pursue in earnest.
NaNoWriMo 2021: A Recap
The stated goal of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is to compose a novel of fifty thousand words or more in the thirty days that comprise the month of November. I only managed about a tenth of that word count, and it’s more like a lone chapter than a complete novel. If I was unemployed and it wasn’t winter, this would be a lot easier. The majority of my writing is done in the morning, and ’tis the season when I necessarily must give up about twenty minutes of precious writing time to scrape off that small glacier on the windshield that formed the night before. Considerably more words were committed to the sheet on those days when I didn’t have to worry about putting on pants or leaving the house, but I only get two such days a week.
On precisely one of those thirty mornings, Black Betty’s keyboard mysteriously stopped working. Found myself having to spend a good chunk of what should’ve been a semi-productive writing session reinstalling the driver (a process which requires at least one reboot), logging in using her hitherto-never-used onscreen keyboard. Managed to fix the problem in the end, but somewhere along the way I learned I’d never want to write a whole novel using that onscreen keyboard. At least not on a device that has no touchscreen. Even with one of those newfangled touchpads that recognizes all the usual tablet gestures, you’re still pretty much forced to hunt and peck.
So I didn’t get anywhere near the prescribed fifty thousand words. No big whoop. They don’t hand out prizes for this thing; it’s not like I would have won a billion dollars had I surpassed the threshold. I certainly don’t consider this NaNoWriMo experience a failure, for what I did produce that month is something I can continue to plod away at for months to come. It’s the beginnings of something like a parallel story to my previous work in progress, set in the same universe. With several characters and plot devices tweaked. A different narrative point of view as well. Which I’ll elaborate on later.
Eight Simple Rules
Kurt Vonnegut once wrote down a list of guidelines he personally abided by when writing short stories. I’m trying to keep them in mind with the NaNoWriMo yarn, even though the finished product will presumably be a novel rather than a short story. Brevity is a particular quality in fiction-writing I’m striving to improve upon.
- Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
- Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
- Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
- Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
- Start as close to the end as possible.
- Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
- Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
- Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.