NaNoWriMo Day 8: Panic At The Keyboard


I continue to march boldly across the uncharted wilds of NaNoWriMo. It’s going quite well. I am thinking of story, and then writing the story down. Words flow from my mind like a righteous jet of urine from a mighty bladder (that’s a sneak peek of the sorts of quality similes you can expect from my steampunk cozy mystery novel Marionn Prenderghast: Ghost For Hire*).

I have some more pep talks to discuss this time. The first is from Cathyrenne Valente and it was far better than Rothfuss’ milky, tepid nonsense. It was hella inspiring, as I’d expect from such a cool-person author, partially because she uses the phrase “puff your chest out like a damn proud toucan” and partly because it has stuff like this:

Though it is important not to put too much pressure on yourself, it is also important to know that quality and speed have absolutely nothing to do with one another. You can write something heart-catchingly brilliant in 30 days. You can do it in 10. There is no reason on this green earth not to try for glory. You’re going to spend these 30 days at the computer anyway. You might as well be mindful while you’re there.

You can come out transformed.

Write something true. Write something frightening. Write something close to the bone. You are on this planet to tell the story of what you saw here. What you heard. What you felt. What you learned. Any effort spent in that pursuit cannot be wasted. Any way that you can tell that story more truly, more vividly, more you-ly, is the right way.

So holler. Tell it loud and tell it bright and tell it slant and tell it bold. Tell it with space whales and silent films or tell it with quiet desperation or tell it with war or tell it with dragons or tell it with tall ships or tell it with divorce in the suburbs or tell it with dancing skeletons and a kraken in the wings.

Tell it fast before you get scared and silence yourself. You’ll never wish you’d held back a little more.

Did you know her first novel was written in only ten days, after she was inspired by hearing about NaNoWriMo? At least, that’s what she claims in the pep talk. Maybe the NaNo people gave her a sack full of gold to say that.

I guess if I’m being in asshole mode again I could point out that this goes back to what I said in the first post about holding the published NaNo authors up as realistic role models. I’ve always been leery of the idea of “talent”, as most skilled practitioners of whatever creative field weren’t actually born with some special skill that ordinary plebeians don’t possess, but writing a publishable debut novel in only ten days (and note that she doesn’t say how long she had to spend revising and rewriting that before it was accepted) is one of these things that I’m fairly certain you need to be quite a special person to achieve, and I’m fairly certain Cathyrenne Valente is quite a special person.

The second pep talk was from Malinda Lo, whose books I’ve never read but I’ve heard okay-ish things about. Her pep talk is about how waiting for “inspiration” to strike is kind of a myth and successful writing is more about just powering through the work whether or not you feel like it.

How often am I filled with inspiration before I start writing? Pretty much never. Instead, I usually stare at my work-in-progress with a vague sense of doom. I often think to myself: What the hell am I doing in this scene? I don’t understand how to get my characters from Point A to Point B! I really want to check Twitter!

That feels like kind of an alien concept to me, but Lo has published four novels whereas I am a person currently doing NaNoWriMo so I think that makes her opinion automatically more valid then mine, on this and all other subjects. The pep talk isn’t as exciting and inspiring as Valente’s but it’s practical and no-nonsense, something the NaNo atmosphere could seriously do with more of.

I also got an incredibly dorky e-mail from the NaNo authorities written in-character as “my novel” complimenting all of the awesome sub-plots and characters I had put into it. This weird atmosphere of forced tweness and cutesiness pervades the entire website- the E-mail we all got on November 1st was written like a communication from a spy organization, for some reason- which perhaps explains why a large portion of the forum-goers appear to be writing their posts from an alternate reality visible only to themselves (more on this in a future post). The E-mail itself was about some sort of writing frenzy taking place tomorrow, in which everyone sits down and puts their nose to the grindstone to try and boost their word-counts by as much as possible. I will not be participating in this because my college graduation is tomorrow, and also I’m eating totally awesome burgers and going to see Oh No Spaceships starring Sandra Bullock at an Imax cinema with my family and friends. The latter two activities are of course more important.

Speaking of word-counts, we’re just over a week into this thing and I’m already seeing people freak out about falling behind or talking about the whole exercise like it’s this massive, dispiriting chore they have to force themselves to get through. I know writing is hard work, and I’m certainly not trying to imply otherwise, but if you’re not enjoying it on some level then why bother doing it?

I get the feeling there are a lot of participants who sat down on November 1st and started to listlessly go through the motions of banging out a story they came up with there and then, not because they had a burning need to tell that story but because they wanted to attain the status of “a writer” for some reason other than the writing itself.

On a related topic, I’m noticing a lot of forum topics where people ask really odd questions ranging from the curiously specific (what would happen if X character did this with Y magical object while travelling at Z miles per hour through space on a flying inter-dimensional surfboard whose properties I made up from nothing) to the uselessly broad (“please write my story for me”, basically). I couldn’t figure out what was up with these threads until I noticed that most of them were written by people with lower than average wordcounts and go into way more detail about the story ad set-up than is strictly necessary, and I realized- they’re a way for people to talk about their stories without the pesky business of actually having to write them.

Anyway, back to writing.




7 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Day 8: Panic At The Keyboard

  1. Signatus

    “That feels like kind of an alien concept to me,”

    I have been there. Not most of the time as she claims, but mostly when I try too hard to pull something out of my ass. Eventually I end up deleting everything and taking a different approach, since I truly believe that, if I’m struggling with it, it is not worth the effort.

    George RR Martin said many times how he struggled with the Mereen plotline, and, IMO, that was a totally unnecessary sidequest that only added tedious to the story.

    1. ronanwills Post author

      What is this fake titles business, each of these masterpiece are totally genuine creations, springing from the depths of my very soul.

      1. Brent

        To be honest a ‘Ghost for Hire’ actually sounds like a pretty cool concept. Like what is the Ghost hired for? To scare people or to try to find a love ones ghost? How is it paid? It could be a comedy/mystery/horror story.


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