This article originally appeared on Harley Jane Kozak’s website.
NaNoNoNoNoNoMo By Harley Jane Kozak
This month William—yes, our William, or that William, or that *!@# William, as I now think of him—talked me into NaNoWriMo. It sounds like a new flavor of Haagen-Dasz, doesn’t it? Or an active volcano?
Don’t I wish.
NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. Where participants—and any idiot can join, William, it’s not like we’re special—vow to write 50,000 words by November 30. Which is about 170 manuscript pages.
“Make no mistake,” the NaNoWriMo website says. “You will be writing a lot of crap.”
I’ve got that part down.
After taking the plunge (why? why?) I was a day late, because William didn’t begin haranguing me until he’d gotten a head start, and also, it took me a day just to read the NaNoWriMo website. My strategy then became to not think FIFTY THOUSAND WORDS. Because I’m no Nora Roberts. Or James Patterson. (Not that James Patterson is James Patterson.) I kept that “You will be writing a lot of crap” motto close to my that “You will be writing a lot of crap” motto close to my heart and eked out 800 words by November 3. 800 different words, I might add, as you’re not supposed to write one word over and over fifty thousand times. But there’s no rule (aside from the rule of good writing) that prevents me from saying something is “very, very” and “really really” whatever it is. I do that very, very often.
Another rule: you must write a novel from scratch. No recycled prose. Some authors cheat, but I was raised by nuns, so I closed the file on my real novel-in-progress, started a new document, named it The Khan Man and just continued with where I’d left off. Chapter One begins mid-sentence and doesn’t even pretend to be a first chapter. William was all excited about me writing a Star Trek novel, but it’s not a Trekkie kind of Khan Man, it’s a Genghis kind of Khan Man, and that’s all I’m saying about that, because I know there are people out there trolling Dumpsters and blogs and even paper shredders for ideas to steal. And if, 18 months hence, the publishing world is overrun with novels featuring 11th century Mongols, I’ll know who to blame, William.
Another NaNoWriMo motto I mutter feverishly is “Fix it in December.” Nancie-the-Gun-Tart has money on me being unable to resist futzing. Sure, I’ve futzed, but my rule of revision is I can’t make it shorter. Still, rewriting is not time-efficient. The Word Count gods demand fresh paragraphs. So I’ve stopped reading what I’ve written. That’s right. I’ve no idea what’s in those 56 pages. And so if I die this month, and someone (William) tries to read my novel, I’ll just . . . die. Thus, I forbid it. If I go, all three computers, plus flash drive, are to be thrown onto the funeral pyre.
So here goes. Current word count:12,203. But it’s not my fault! I’ve been preparing to teach a seminar this weekend in Nebraska, and now my kids only have school half days this week and then NO SCHOOL next week, and Thanksgiving’s at my house and my sister’s wedding’s in Wisconsin, and what demented mind picked November for this?
The only way to pull it off is to throw grocery lists into my novel, along with my Thanksgiving Squash Soufflé Recipe, William’s home phone number, notes to my kids’ teachers, and drafts of the text for my Christmas cards, which need to get to the printer.
Why, just by cutting and pasting this blog into The Khan Man and calling it Chapter Twelve, I’ve bumped my word count up to 12,838.
Next week: I bump off William and steal his novel.
Check out Harley Jane Kozak’s website.