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NaNoWriMo Update

NaNoWriMo Update - Strand Bookstore

Folks, it’s time for my NaNoWriMo update. I have just 8 more days to hit my personal goal of 30,000 revised words for my novel in November, aka NaNoWriMo month. And guess what? I’m up to 24,508 words. For the uninitiated, that’s 74 double-spaced pages in Times Roman 12 font.

Now, most published novels are anywhere from 70,000 to 150,000 words (150-300 printed pages) in length. So that means that by the end of November, I’ll be 20-50% done.



In order to knock out 30,000 words in November, I’ll have had to knock out 30,000 words in November. That means I’ll have had to dump loads of crap onto the page. Appallingly bad stuff. Words I almost can’t bear to read. Even my keyboard periodically freezes up in protest, as in, “You want me to type what? For real?”

Let’s just say that if Cormac McCarthy or Jeffrey Eugenides or Jonathan Franzen popped over for a shot of bourbon and asked to see my manuscript in its current form, I’d fling my MacBook out the window into the construction zone next door. Manuscript? What manuscript?

There are at least five lifetimes of self-loathing involved in fiction writing. In order to, God willing, publish a lovely, insightful book you first need to put something on the page and then down the dregs of bourbon Cormac, Jeffrey, and Jonathan left behind so you can gain the courage to read what you’ve written. And then you revise that something 92 times. (I’m on time 91. Not that I’m counting.) And because you don’t work well alone or with others, you’ll simultaneously wish you could live in an abandoned hut in the Iowa backwoods and be feted daily by your 10,000 biggest fans at the Strand Bookstore in NYC.

Then next thing you know you’re out of bourbon and you realize that Cormac, Jeffrey, and Jonathan don’t even know who you are and that you flung your MacBook out the window for no reason and that Iowa’s a stupid state. And instead of the Strand in Manhattan your sketchy sense of direction sent you to the Book Barn in the Bronx, where you were robbed at gunpoint by the cast of Jersey Shore, then had your stolen manuscript returned to you, complete with extensive red pen commentary, by an intoxicated pec-flexer known as The Situation.

Now as I said, you’ve got around 92 revisions in total, and the first 39 or so are torturous. Words, I’m showing you love and attention, so why do you insist on sucking so badly?

Then around the 40th revision you start to get pumped. Your NaNoWriMo update that year is different than in years past. Look at me! No, really, somebody look at me! I’ve somehow authored THE most perfect, most publishable fiction ever crafted!

So you circulate the manuscript for review knowing full well that every reader will fall in love with it because you’re a literary genius. And approximately three days later you’ll begin making 52 more sets of revisions, as suggested to you by peers, agents, editors, and soon-to-be former friends, some of whom encourage you to scrap the entire manuscript and start over.

“I’m just not that into the story.”

“Maybe I missed it—did your novel even include a story?”

“Were you trying to be funny? Cause it’s not working. I’ve never tried writing humor before, but I’m sure I’d be good at it, and I’d be happy to give you some suggestions.”

“I hate your protagonist. Hate. Her. Is she based on you? Cause if she is, I might also hate you.”

And my favorite feedback —

Reader: I just don’t get it.

C: What don’t you get?

Reader: It.

C: Can you give me an example of “it”?

Reader: Um, you’re the writer, not me. “It” should be apparent to you.

C: Very helpful, thank you.

When all’s said and done, however, you’ll have 92 complete versions of your novel, which will have taken you a mere 14 or 15 years to complete. That’s 92 versions, people. We’re talking about something big and frightening and incredibly impressive. And it all happened because you somehow wrote 30,000 words in November alone. That’s something all right. And this has been your NaNoWriMo update.

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