Dispatches from NaNoWriMo: The Prep-Panic Cycle

[Cross blogged for Leland Quarterly]

Screw you all. You damn people who liked my “Should I do NaNoWriMo?” Facebook status. You stupid false friends who said, “Why not? I’ll cheer you on!” Well, guess what? I’ve registered. Yes, I registered for NaNoWriMo – and I blame you.

In case you hadn’t figured it out yet, I have committed myself to participating in the mad writing dash that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I’m going to attempt to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November, which means I have to average about 1,667 words per day. But hey, I punched out 7,000 words in about three days to finish a short story once; admittedly, it was more about quantity than quality at that point, but that same philosophy holds for NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo doesn’t start for bit, but here’s the deal: it’s NaNoWriMo. The rules state you’re not supposed to start writing ahead of time, but outlines and characters sketches and all that planning stuff is fair game. And let’s be honest, how the hell am I going to write a 50,000-word (or longer!?) novel in a month that includes Thanksgiving and Big Game and medical school applications and interviews without some planning? Holy shit there’s a lot that goes on in November – how am I supposed to write a novel in this month of all months. 1,667 words a day? I must be crazy. Or I will be crazy soon.

Or, I could stay calm. Cut the excessive punctuation. Planning. I need to do some planning. I’m good at planning. I could plan novels for years! In fact, that’s what I’ve been doing for years. I guess that’s the whole point of this thing – to kick lazy would-be-wannabe writers off their asses and get them actually writing. Kick away NaNoWriMo – my ass needs you.

So here’s the state of things. In chronological order of inception (and therefore in order of quality), here are the novel ideas I’ve tossed around in my lifetime:

  • Something about waif-y princess-y girls surviving on a remote island. (In my defense I was eight when I came up with this.)
  • School on Tracks: a school on a train. It involved a love hexagon. (Again, in my defense, I was only twelve.)
  • The Gathering: fighter meets healer, mayhem and psychological insanity ensue. This was probably the first idea that actually had a plot. Sort of.
  • Roosevelt Academy: genius kids go to a school that trains them to become covert operatives. The idea was roughly Spy Kids (young spies) meets Gossip Girl (drama-rama) meets The West Wing (politics and smart, witty characters).
  • The Jade League*: mages lead a rebellion in depression-ridden Paris. This one’s actually pretty solid—interesting characters with clear motives, a well-developed world, and a decently compelling plot.
  • Rainwalkers of Penryn**: in the future, when humanity is forced to move underground, twins in the elite surface-restoration corps go AWOL to rescue their kidnapped sister. I like this one too, although the futuristic world needs some work.
  • [untitled]: man fakes his own death to live the life he’s always wanted, but runs into trouble when a reporter tracks him down. This one was intended to be a kitschy musical.
  • Will**: after a debilitating accident, a recent college grad gets lost in the alternate reality of his dreams while his best friend tries to bring him back. Another solid story idea, although I’m still not sure how he gets out.
  • Evenfall*: the sibling rivalry between precocious twins wreaks havoc. This one is classic fantasy (with dragons and all), and is pretty solid in terms of plot point and characters. Being classic fantasy though, it would be epically long.
  • The Literary Adventures of Zeus Jorgensen: bat-shit insane friend becomes the literary agent for a talented writer and whores him out on various writing jobs. This one was more conceived as a potential collaboration with a friend.

* Novels I would seriously consider writing next month.
** Novels that would require significantly more planning before I’d be able to write them next month.

Okay well let’s be honest, even the single * ideas above would need more planning. Like, a shit-ton of planning. Why did I wait until the last week to commit to this and start thinking about the story? And what do I do with the ones that I’ve already started writing? Do I have to start over?? That’s not the end of the world, right???? Stop it. From now on every sentence is only allowed one punctuation mark.

So I’m going to go prep and panic some more, and try to figure out what the hell kind of novel I’m about to write. Other preparatory steps taken so far:

  • Madly writing medical school secondary applications before their November deadlines so that hopefully I won’t have to write them during NaNoWriMo. In all likelihood, I am not going to finish.
  • Also madly trying to revise a scientific paper and adding new results before November.
  • THIS IS NO TIME FOR TV – that means you, missed How I Met Your Mother and Daily Show episodes.
  • Cleaned email inbox. There won’t be time for this next month.
  • Made a bunch of playlists for various writing moods.
  • Procrastinated planning by suddenly becoming very active on Facebook and Twitter.
  • What do you mean, I need a haircut?

0 days 12 hours and 25 minutes before NaNoWriMo begins.

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