[Note: As I mentioned some time in the recent past (I don't feel like trying to figure out which post that was, right now), my wife is doing NaNo this year. It was kind of a spontaneous decision, but, then, that's how she often does things, and the best way to deal with that is to grab on and go along for the ride. To put it in writing terms, she would be the pantser of the family while I'm the plotter. Except that that's not quite true, but that's how it often feels and, probably, looks from the outside. At any rate, her decision to do NaNo was... well, I'll let her tell you about it in her own words.]
So I got a Kindle Fire for my birthday earlier this month. This was a present from my most excellent husband (the owner of this blog) and our kids. Some things to know about me and Andrew: We're not early adopters, ever; I'm actually kind of a Luddite (despite being a data analyst for a large corporation by trade); and we both grew up reading copious quantities of physical books. Thus this gifting of an electronic device on which books can be read is a big leap for us. But he made the leap, I think, because he's got a wife who does love to read and he just thought it would be nifty; also because after 15 years together he's still not really sure what kind of jewelry I like. [Actually, I wanted to get her something that she would use and enjoy on a continuous basis, and, as much as my wife likes the idea of jewelry, she rarely wears it. And she's always complaining about how the books I want to keep take up too much space, which is a valid argument for the size house we live in.]
I was both thrilled and intimidated by this gift. Thrilled because it's for books! and intimidated because, it seems, you can do a lot of other stuff with this device, like play games. Or surf the web. Or check email. Or...I'm not sure, it may even have a ray gun inside it somewhere. And I sort of hate to figure out new devices and how to use them (see Luddite, above) and determine how much money they will cost me in an ongoing sense. (Though I admit that having a portable ray gun would probably be really handy, but I bet the per-ray charges are insane.)
After my initial moment of "whoa, what," I did do some exploring and found out a fabulous fact: Our local library system does e-book lending, and it's nearly as easy to do as just surfing Amazon and one-clicking on whatever you like (after you physically visit the library, pay your late-book fines, renew your card, and spend a couple hours surfing the library website looking for ANY e-book that isn't already checked out).
So yeah, after one-clicking, I ended up with a book titled No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty. There's very little explanation for why I checked this book out, other than the fact that out of 1000 or so e-book titles in the library this was almost the only thing that even remotely appealed to me and was immediately available. (Seriously, I would have even checked out 50 Shades of Gray, but it was checked out AND had a wait list of 40+.) I wanted some instant gratification on my new e-book mechanism, and this was it.
Let me be very clear at this point: I did not check this book out because I seriously thought I wanted to write a novel. Ever. Especially not during NaNoWriMo this year.
See, this is a substantial difference between Andrew and me. He has always wanted to write fiction, and I have always known that I do not and will not write fiction. That's not to say that I'm not a writer and not a good one, because I actually am. In college I could easily write a substantial paper overnight, without revisions, and get a B or higher. (The fact that I could usually get away with such terrible procrastination is why my overall GPA wasn't generally great.) But nearly all my writing has been done in the service of completing school and then being competent at my job. (You wouldn't think that the job of data analyst requires good writing skills but it actually does. No one's better at a bullet-pointed list than I am.) I've never taken a class in creative writing, and I didn't study more literature in school than I was strictly required to do.
I started to read the book and it turns out the story of NaNoWriMo--that is, the history--really drew me in. Basically it started out as a ridiculous thing for a group of friends to do. No one thought that works of great genius or amazing craft would be turned out; rather, it was a crazy creative thing to do for the hell of it, together. It sounded like a lot of fun. [It also wasn't originally in November, which I found interesting, and none of thought that it would become what it has. I mean, they weren't thinking about the future of it at all. It was a "let's do this right now kind of thing that became a tradition and then became a THING.]
After the history of NaNoWriMo, the rest of the book was mostly about the hows of accomplishing such a ludicrous, wild goal in the space of a month. Which, to boil it down, is "keep going and don't stop." (Now you don't have to read the book, but it's actually a pretty entertaining and quick read and possibly helpful to anyone who struggles with their Inner Editor or with writing paralysis.) Chris Baty managed to make the task sound like something which even I, the non-writer-of-fiction, am up to.
The upshot of it is that somewhere in the pages of the book I became convinced that I might as well try to write a novel. I do have a lot of story ideas in my head. I don't know whether they are good story ideas, but according to Baty that doesn't really matter; it's OK to write un-original crapola and it's OK to not care about "getting published." It's OK to write pulp fiction with no redeeming social value or great-novel aspirations. It's even OK to suck at spelling and grammar, at least for this first draft. (Spelling and grammar are a couple of things I un-suck at with writing; however, I'm also aware that they don't encompass fiction writing. And I managed to misspell grammar both times I typed it just now, of course.)
So yeah, I haven't ever written any fiction, but I have these things going for me:
-- I am a well-educated and thoughtful fan of sci-fi so I can probably not hack it up too badly. That is to say, I can do better than Galaxy Quest levels of science and there will be no chompy-crushy things in the middle of my space ship.
-- I write extremely quickly.
-- Spelling and grammar are not an issue for me.
Oh, I guess I should say I'll be writing a sci-fi novel. I was planning on writing something that could be described as "dystopian near-future sci-fi" (nothing like Hunger Games, okay), but yesterday I decided to switch to something different. A new idea, just because it feels more fun. And Baty's advice in No Plot was to write something I'd enjoy writing, so I'll be going for something more space-opera. I'm tentatively calling it All Suns Go Dark. (That probably should have been "tentatively titling." I told you I'm no author.)
Wish me luck. I'll update in the middle of the month if Andrew lets me and I haven't thrown in the writing towel by then. Anyone else doing NaNo or something equally ridiculous right now?
[I do want to say that I have been trying to get her to write something for years. She does have good stories, and I envy her ability to write quickly, a skill I do not have. Assuming she is still working on this, there will be an update in the middle of November sometime.]