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Seven Years of Letters October 31, 2009

Posted by monty in books.
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chapter 1

I’ve never been particularly inclined to write a novel before.  I like writing, and I’ve certainly played around with short stories and poetry, but the commitment I think it would take to slog through a novel has always been daunting to me.  I’m kind of lazy, and the work ethic I know it would take to be a novelist – on top of the work ethic I already have to have as part of my job – has been about as appealing to me as going outside and licking the sidewalk.

But here’s the thing.  A little over two years ago I wrote the first fifty pages of something that could be a novel.  It features a kid named Garrett.  I shared it with a good number of people, and its popularity surpassed anything I could have anticipated.  These were people I respected – acquaintances, yes, but not many of them friends, and very few of them would have felt obligated to pat me on the back the way some people might.  Ten days ago I shared it with some new people, and they enjoyed it, too.  I posted an excerpt of it on this very blog not too long ago.  You can read it here.

In the two years since I wrote it, I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out where to go next.  I’ve considered and discarded a lot of ideas, some because they didn’t seem very entertaining, some because they weren’t very good.  And I have to admit that the weight of expectation has settled heavily on my shoulders.  People like the story in its current state so much that I feel the only realistic outcome of further writing will be disappointment.  I can’t be unveiled as a fraud and a charlatan if I don’t try.  I can coast on those 50 pages for the rest of my life, if I want to.

Earlier this week, though, I think I figured out where to take it next.  I think.  Maybe not.  But it seems more promising than anything else I’ve come up with, and I’m suitably excited about it to feel like I want to at least give it a shot.  I don’t necessarily feel any more confident about my ability, but I figure if I wait to feel confident, I’ll never get anything done.

This development just happens to coincide with the beginning of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which starts tomorrow and runs through November 30.  I have no idea when or how this got started, but there’s a website that sponsors a novel-writing contest.  The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel (roughly 110 pages) during the month of November.  You write it on whatever software you wish, update your daily word count on the site, post excerpts, and then upload the whole shebang at the end.  I think you get a certificate if you complete the challenge, but obviously the real reward is just the act of finishing the novel.

My thought, as of Saturday afternoon, is to take the plunge.  It’s 30 days.  I can fake a work ethic for one month, I think.  You can’t use any writing completed previously, so I have to figure out how to make my continuation of the established story a logical place to begin.  I think I’ve got it worked out.  And even if I don’t, this will be good for me.  I’ll post it here as I write it, just to keep myself honest.  The main thing, though, is simply to keep moving, keep writing.  Or, as screenwriter William Goldman says, just get the fucking train over the mountain.

Here we go.

*****

Current listening:

Jenny lewis rabbit fur coat

Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins – Rabbit Fur Coat

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