I decided that I’d try to throw myself into writing by trying to complete Nanowrimo. Never mind that it is irritating in the extreme that it still calls itself, NA nowrimo, when it is really internatnowrimo, but then they are Americans running the thing, so one expects what one expects. The 3-Day Novel contest calls itself international, which it is. But Canadians get the idea of international. Just let’s talk about the World Series….
So I trustingly started on my novel, which I think is really a short story, early in November, using a fabulous program called Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die, a marvelous little device that you can download for only $10 and which forces your fingers to keep flying or it releases gasbags of horrible noise as punishment. If I even pause for thought I get a dark red screen and in a few seconds shrieking violons, etc. It does make me write fast, which I have found allows me to get into the story, wade deep, fill my hipwaders with the warm waters of my river flow, and ignore everything around me. As someone with concentration difficuluties and a tendency to multitask to work detriment, this is a very very good thing.
But I wonder. Before, when I was published again and again, I was writing short, 600-800 word humorous rants about my life, personal essays with a bite. I sold almost every one I wrote. My short stories are doing okay, winning prizes, etc, but the longer things I write are just not making it. I’ve tried novellas, I’ve tried novels. It just isn’t working for me. Perhaps I am a short attention span writer. I met Arthur Black, a man with a good wit and a generous soul and a true funny bone that gets me giggling every time I hear or read him. He’s made a career of writing funny short things based on newspaper clippings and odd events, has had several radio and TV programs, and published several books. He told me he can’t imagine ever trying to write a novel – that it wouldn’t work for him. We discussed the difficulty of keeping track of multiple plot lines, character development, etc. Speaking to him I couldn’t help but feel I was on the wrong track.
And then I hear my ex-mother-in-law’s voice, when she’d read some of my stuff. I only showed her the published things. “It must be nice to be able to dash off these little things,” she’d said, “not putting as much effort in it as people who write academic things or novels or whatever…”
I’d like to purge that voice. It IS hard to write short, and funny. You have to be willing to cut yourself back, to remove everything that isn’t absolutely required for communicating the message. In a novel, you have the luxury of wandering along, smelling the roses, trailing your hand along the leaves, listening to the birdies chirp. In short writing, you are doing a fifty-yard dash. One wrong step and you are done for.
I was only ever good at fifty-yard dashes in school. Endurance only came later when I had to carry kids and groceries across vast parking lots, two of them needing a diaper change and the third running ahead of me.
So, what to do. I do like my premise for Nanowrimo. I think I will force myself to explore it and write the requisite number of words. If nothing else, it will keep my writing brain engaged. But I’m going to start gathering funny things, silly things, interesting things for short articles.
For example, have you read that 85% of Canadian monetary bills have cocaine on them?