Thursday, November 01, 2007

NaNoWriMo Napalm Flying

So this is it: November 1. Today I'll write 1700 words. But not here. I've got a file started that's labeled "Nanowrimo," the quarky acronym for National Novel Writing Month. I've already banked 2,000 words in there, which isn't many considering that's just a couple hundred words more than I've pledged to write EVERY DAY for the next 30 days. The guy who dreamed up this wacky stunt wrote a book called "No Plot, No Problem" and all 90,000 of us who've signed up this year have promised not to even THINK about revising what we write. That's for December. Or the rest of my natural born life. For now, the goal is quantity. Supposedly the novel will magically begin to reveal itself. Why not? Writing is the one constant of my life, a beloved meditation and non-chemical Prozac. It makes my brain feel good and keeps me balanced and happy. And I'm trying to kick myself beyond Night Blind and into something new.

Want to know what it's about? None of your business. Ala Anne Lamott, I've picked all the doubting voices by their tiny mouse tails, put them in a jar, and screwed the lid down tight. They're in there squeaking and trying to get out, but I can't hear them.

I'm embarking on this crazy project with three of my English Department colleagues -- Jim, Dave and Janelle. I wonder what kind of shape we'll be in by Nov. 30. I predict blubbering and aphasic, with little calluses on the tips of our achy typing fingers.

Today's NaNoWriMo inaugural pep talk came via email from Bigtime Famous Novelist Tom Robbins, who wrote one of my favorite novels from the Seventies, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. Among other cleansing admonitions, he wrote:

"When you sit down to begin that novel of yours, the first thing you might want to do is toss a handful of powdered napalm over both shoulders---so as to dispense with any and all of your old writing teachers, the ones whose ghosts surely will be hovering there, saying such things as, "Adverbs should never be...", or "A novel is supposed to convey...", et cetera. Enough! Ye literary bureaucrats, vamoose! Rules such as "Write what you know," and "Show, don't tell," while doubtlessly grounded in good sense, can be ignored with impunity by any novelist nimble enough to get away with it. There is, in fact, only one rule in writing fiction: Whatever works, works."

Now, I'm a writing teacher myself and I've railed against adverbs and shouted "Write What You Know" myself many times. So I'm tossing away my own chestnuts, not to mention the voices of numerous writing gurus of my own. Hey, good riddance.

So here goes. I'm flinging the napalm -- and all good sense -- over my shoulder. Yeah, baby, I'm gonna be a word machine.


Krista said...

Fabulous! I'm not participating this year, but I'll happily cheer you on!

Macy Swain said...

Thanks, Krista. Feel free to stop by the ENG Department to check out our Progress Chart, courtesy of Cathy Akers-Jordan. Have you done it before?

Krista said...

I've participated the last few years. I never reached my goals, but I made good progress each time.