A letter from Camp NaNoWriMo

ImageI have been lax, constant readers, because this month I have been participating in Camp NaNoWriMo. For those of you unfamiliar, National Novel Writing Month (hosted by the Office of Letters and Light) is a program I feel very strongly about for a number of reasons that have been previously enumerated. The official NaNoWriMo is November, but during the summer, OLL runs two camps–one in June, and one in August. The goals are the same as November: 50,000 words in 30 days. I was not going to do June’s camp this year, because I was going to edit, but then, on May 28, I said,

“Fuck it. I’ll just write a book.”

This may sound like a terrible idea–and let me assure you that it is not for the faint of heart. I know, however, that if I don’t have a Fuck It, I’ll Just Write A Book kind of day at some point, I’ll edit until I’ve whittled a 90,000-word novel into a 40,000 novella made entirely of dialogue and hate. And I don’t want to do that.

That being said, of course, I had a novel in mind when I had this very mature revelation, which is the big takeaway here. It’s very difficult to write a book that you know nothing about. And yes: this coming from a self-aggrandizing–er, self-proclaimed, that is–pantser. (See: organic storytelling, or “making shit up as you go.”)

The book I decided to write is the second in a five-book arc that I started last November. These books are, if I do say so myself, pretty fucking awesome. I’d started the book two or three times already, seeing as how the first book was finished seven months ago, but I’d had horrible trouble getting the thing to go anywhere. It was not because the Grand Scheme of Things wasn’t working, but because I hadn’t broken it down thoroughly enough. I had a very loose idea of what I wanted to cover in there–bunny’s life complicated by farmer–and hadn’t gotten around to the particulars–farmer laces his garden with poison, buys two new dogs, and leans a shotgun against the back door; meanwhile, back at the bunny hole, Mrs. Bunny and all the little bunnykins are slowly starving to death. While I still maintain that the latter isn’t quite plotting the way many writers will explain, it is a lot more a story structure than “farmer makes bunny’s life living hell.” Because where do you go from there?

Let me rephrase: Where don’t you go from there?

It’s a reason I prefer poetry to free verse.* When you’re writing metered, rhyming poetry, you’ve got a set of parameters in which you’ve got to stay. You’ve got to think about how many syllables go into a word, you’ve got to think about assonance, consonance, alliteration; you’ve got all these moving parts you’ve got to consider, and you can’t just wander off into the wild blue yonder, throwing words about willy-nilly like that’s okay or something. Because it’s not.

And don’t go all nuts because all of a sudden Sara’s a plotter or some crazy shit–let’s keep our shit together, okay, pumpkins? But if you’re going to paint a picture, you’ve got to know what you’re going to paint with (watercolor, oil, whatever else people use to paint), and you’ve got to know what you’re going to paint. I assure you, constant readers, I always know my destination, and one, if not several, stops along the way, but I’m open to taking scenic detours. They’re always more interesting than the interstate, at any rate.

*I realize I’m going to start a fight here, and I don’t care. I’m pretty sure the deciding factor of admission into my high school creative writing class was when I told the teacher that I didn’t consider Walt Whitman a poet. But that’s an argument for a different time altogether.

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2 Responses to A letter from Camp NaNoWriMo

  1. Pingback: What to write? The clock is ticking. | In other words

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