Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

NaNoWriMo, day one

So there’s this thing called National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.  It’s a contest of sorts, where writers have one month to write a 50,000 word novel.  There are no prizes or judges, and there’s no real anything except motivation to throw together a book as fast as possible.  This isn’t anything new; I tried to do this back in 2002, but between a trip to Vegas at the start, a horrible case of the flu, and a story line that was largely unsustainable, I dropped out pretty fast.  This time, I will be in Mexico for a week of the time, and I’ve got a more involved job, plus I’m also married now, so I don’t have as much time as when I was single with no friends in New York, and coasting in a job where I could spend long periods of time chipping away at an outline.

I have been outlining a book for a few weeks ago; it’s actually an idea I’ve knocked around for years, and I have parts of a rough draft that weighs in at about 60,000 words.  The book, structurally, threatens to weigh in at close to the word count of Summer Rain, or about 180,000-200,000 words.  The book is somewhat biographical, and takes place in high school.  I have often said I don’t want to dip back into this style of writing, and there are some obvious issues with doing this.  But I feel like I need to get this out of my system and behind me, and the only way to do that is to actually write and finish the damn book and put it behind me.  Maybe nobody will ever read it, but I need to get it done and on the shelf.

My biggest problem is that twenty years is a long time ago, and my memory isn’t what it used to be.  When I was writing Summer Rain, that period was only a few years behind me.  I also had a decent paper trail, including old emails, diaries, checkbooks, bank statements, letters, and even a copy of my bursar’s record, with the prices of every thin dime the university shook out of me back in 1992.  I have moved eight times since I started Summer Rain.  Since I graduated high school, I have moved fifteen times.  Each time, a little bit more falls off the truck or into the recycler, and I have almost no record of anything anymore.  I need to be a lot more loose with dates and details this time around.

There’s also the issue with writing about other people.  I always run into the problem that I write some story about someone from 1988, and the story is about love lost or lessons learned, and I get an email that says “WHAT THE FUCK DUDE MY CAR DIDNT HAVE 14 INCH RIMS IT HAD 15 INCH RIMS”.  Writing about space aliens from mars doesn’t generate this kind of thing, and it’s a real crapshoot, because I can obsess over these tiny details, or I can just omit so-and-so from the story entirely, or make up some new character, or whatever else.  But knowing that someone will read the story eventually and get on your case because maybe you painted them in a bad light is always unnerving.  And the work of combining and amalgamating and fictionalizing characters is always that – work.

So I’ve been re-reading John Sheppard’s Small Town Punk (the original version, not the Reader’s Digest version) and that’s got me geared up.  I’ve also been doing a lot of outlining using OmniOutliner on the Mac, which is a pretty useful program for this sort of thing.  I usually have really terse outlines, and then I write for 30 or 40,000 words, and then I start forgetting what the outline is or what I covered, and I have to stop and re-read and re-outline everything, which is a huge waste of time.  I hope that I can stick to this outline and keep things rolling.

Today was day one, and my wordcount was just over 3000.  I think you need something like 1667 words a day to hit the magic 50K, so I’m slightly ahead.  I hope I can work out some more slack and keep going.  I’m also somewhat forcing myself to write very linear, starting at chapter 1 and going forward, instead of hopping around.

Anyway, that’s what’s keeping me busy – if I vanish for a bit, you know why.