November is coming. And that means so is National Novel Writing Month. In years past, I’ve watched and read as my friends fought their way through it, some succeeding, some failing, all glorious in the pursuit. I’ve sat, thought, considered and ultimately come up with one excuse or another not to do it. There’s always next year, I told myself, I don’t have time for it now.
Now it’s next year. And I’m going to do this.
The reason can be summed up with a single number: 36. This year, I’m turning 36 years old, and I’ve spent a good chunk of the last three and a half decades telling myself I was going to write a novel. In the back of my mind, I’ve always had the number 35 floating around, thinking that I’d have this project done by that magic year. My birthday is Dec. 17, and I’m rapidly running out of “35” in which to write a novel.
Thus my attempt at NaNoWriMo. It’s my Hail Mary pass of novel writing attempts, my proton torpedo shot at the Death Star.
1,700 words a Day
I’m no stranger to writing. I don’t know how many words I’ve written over the years, but between my old newspaper job, Nuketown, my assorted freelance gigs, and 10+ years of game mastering, I’ve got to be over a million words. Maybe two million. What I haven’t done a lot of though, is writing fiction. I’ve got a few short stories under my belt, and a few dozen chapters in two or three books written, but nothing more than 10,000 words. Certainly nothing approaching the 50,000 words of NaNoWriMo.
Writing fiction, writing that much fiction, is what I’m most worried about. 1,700 words a day? Challenging, but I can do that. 1,700 creative words a day? Now that’s hard, so much so that I’m not even sure it’s doable, but honestly, that’s also the whole point of trying it. And incidentally, that’s going to be one of the major themes of my novel.
My immediate plan for the rest of October is to tie up as many freelance and gaming loose ends as I can. I’m going to write my monthly Knights of the Dinner Table column this weekend, and start pulling together my notes for the two games that — as fate would have it — I’m reviewing for SCIFI.com next month. I’m also scheduled to run at least one session of Mutants & Masterminds next month, so I need to make sure my notes and any supplemental blog posts for the session are done by the end of October.
Though I probably should have given this more thought prior to the start of autumn, I’m also figuring out what my November vacation schedule is going to look like. I’m planning on taking 3-5 days off to write, and the big question on my mind is when is the most effective time? Should I top-load things and take a few days off at the start of the month to get things rolling, or should I shoot for the middle of the month when I might need the mid-project boost? Or maybe take off the entire week of Thanksgiving, giving me a solid seven days to work? Of these options, the late-November Thanksgiving push seems the best strategy to me; it gives me more time to get through my work projects, and gives me some guaranteed time when I’ll be able to focus on the task at hand. The challenge will be not relying on it too much; the goal should be to use it for the final push, not to get caught up on the work I didn’t do earlier in the month.
Preparing the Tools
The new MacBook Pro is charged, loaded and ready to go. I’ve got all my software loaded on, and while I may be experimenting with using NeoOffice as I write this, trusty old Microsoft Word will be my tool of choice for the project.
My workspace is a bit of a disaster area, and I need to make sure it’s at least somewhat organized — comics put into their storage box, if not actually bagged and inventoried — but that’s something I can knock out this weekend.
As for the tool I’ll be using to do this — my body — it’s tired, achy and sore, all signs that I need to make a major push to get to the gym before NaNoWriMo starts. That would seem self-contradictory, but it really does help with sleeping, focus and relaxation.
And that’s it. That’s what I need to do to get ready for the big event. Now I just need to do it.