Sunday, November 06, 2016
I wrote over 15,000 words in the last five days.
Why in the world would I do that? Because I am participating for the third tme in National Novel Writing Month.
This is an annual event that, in general, is supporting literacy. The idea is to not create a great novel but to get a draft on paper. The folks at NaNoWriMo know that writing is rewriting. They aren’t saying that producing the 50,000 words to “win” NaNoWriMo (you really don’t win anything) is going to get you a publishing contract. Fifty thousand words is a nice, round, doable number.
I did it the first time in 2011, then in 2014 (but I cheated that time, because I just uploaded something I’d already written; uploaded novels are immediately removed from their server.) This time I am really writing but also taking the dialogue of a play I wrote and refashioning it. Yesterday I dug in and wrote over 10,000 words. It was neat for a couple of reasons.
That morning I had read the opening passage of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I paid a penny for it on Amazon and had just received it in the mail. The 4.00 total for the book (the notorious 3.99 shipping and handling) I spent was the best writing investment in my life. Something clicked. I saw that my writing is—was-- jaundiced. By that I mean that the tone was always negative. There was a little bit of a smirk going on; I was criticizing, not exploring or revealing my characters. Somehow I had gotten the idea that superior, arrogant point of view and tone is literary. Those first few pages of The Goldfinch cured me of that. (I don’t know how long it will take me to read the rest of it, though. It’s something like 800 pages, which is excessive.)
Secondly, I used first person point of view for the first time for any length in a novel. There is a character I have wanted to develop and first person totally worked, in this case because the writer is fairly educated and capable of articulate self-expression. The words just flowed out. I am not saying it’s good; I’m just saying it came, and I saw why first person works.
Last weekend I read two books: Grendel by John Gardner, and one of Sue Grafton’s alphabet books, as I call them. I was emulating Grafton’s use of first person for the “detective” and third person for the others. It words. But yesterday I saw I was emulating her tone, which is critical of characters. For her it works—she’s made enough money at it—but I don’t want to do that. It’s not consistent with my world view, anyway.
There is some bad to be said about NaNoWriMo (they want donations and November Is a terrible month to try to write—January makes more sense) but I am a believer in the momentum it creates.
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