Have you ever written a novel? I haven’t. And let me tell you, frankly I’m getting sick of seeing that item linger on my lifelong to-do list. I’m also sick of not having put in the time to develop my writing chops to write as quickly as I want to. But even more sickening is the fact that I have great story to tell, if only I would sit down and write the damn thing out. I don’t think I’m alone in this. I think there are plenty of people that have a novel in them worth reading, if only they could find the time to write it. This is where November comes in.
November is national novel writing month. Started in 1999 to provide a bit of solidarity to writers trying to get their novel out of their head and on to the paper, national novel writing month has grown into an online support system of writing resources and forums aimed at keeping people writing. Last year, over 400,000 budding novelists registered for the event and spent the month posting their word counts and delving into every conceivable genre. Each came to the event from a different background. Some were professional novelists looking for a kick in the ass and some were complete novices not knowing, perhaps, what they were getting themselves into. Most, like me, fall somewhere in the middle.
It was my first book, but to truly be that, I need to write a second one.
This is not my first book. Daily throughout 2011, I interviewed and photographed someone working in the Rust Belt city of Rochester, New York to create a field guide to the local economy that was subsequently published in 2012. The challenge on that project (like all 365 projects) is not to miss a day. It meant not getting sick or leaving town. It meant waking up every single day with the monkey of a task to find someone working in Rochester, photograph them, and have a conversation about their job. There were several panicked nights throughout that year with midnight within sight where I was still prowling the freezing cold streets of Rochester looking for someone to talk to. That said, I never missed a day, I never cheated on the time or place, and I got the thing done. It was my first book, but to truly be that, I need to write a second one.
This project is different. The goal here is to write 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30. At an average of 1,667 a day, it is not unrealistic (this post has 646 words)—but like all endurance projects it will take, well, endurance. My last book was photo-driven and nonfiction. It required me to leave the house, walk up to complete strangers and ask them personal questions about their job (a task as a newspaper photographer I was well equipped to do). This book will be primarily legends, lies and true stories where the names have been changed to keep me from getting sued. It will require me to sit alone in front of a computer and actually write (as a person who prefers talking to people and being outside, this is a task I am loath to do).
But, it will be done this November because the results will be worth it (at least for me). As the managing editor of a publication dedicated to encouraging and supporting those in creative careers with stories and lessons learned from other creatives, I can think of no better way to better understand the process novelists go through to create then by joining a half-million others from around the world engaging in the same process. If you would like to join me, you can find out more at the National Novel Writing Month website. I’ll check back in here at Pyragraph.com in December with the results. Wish me luck.