|Chichiri no da (chichirinoda) wrote in the_swc,|
@ 2008-11-01 15:13:00
I figure not all of us are signed up to NaNoWriMo, which means that even though several of us are doing a bunch of writing, we're not all getting Chris Baty's peptalk emails.
One of the highlights of my year, each year, is reading his emails. I find them amusing and inspiring, and I have decided I'll share them with the group. Even if you're not doing NaNo and have no desire ever to do them, I think there's a good chance you'll find a nugget of something helpful. So I'm going to post them and you can't stop me. So there. ^_~
Howdy! NaNo Program Director Chris Baty here. Welcome to the 10th NaNoWriMo! It's great to have you on board.
I'll be sending you one of these emails each week from here until the end of the event. Between my emails, you'll also get two encouraging missives from our panel of celebrity author pep talkers. This week, you'll be hearing from Jonathan Stroud and Philip Pullman.
Okay. Enough chit-chat. It's time to talk geodes.
Geodes, for the geologically disinclined, look like normal rocks on the outside. But when you cut them open, they're filled with all sorts of wonders—bubbly layers of agate, sparkly crystals, elves.
As a kid, I was obsessed with geodes. The highlight of my year was a visit to Dick's Rock Shop in Fountain, Colorado. The owner of the store, Richard Stearns, had a crate of dirty, unremarkable, tennis-ball-sized rocks in his Geode Bin. You'd spend an hour hunting through them until you'd picked out the perfect dirty, unremarkable rock.
Richard would then fire up his slab saw and cut the thing in half for you. The machine screamed and spit water to cool the blade, and it was messy and slow. Most of the time, Richard would lose a finger in the process.
That's how I remember it anyway. The details are a little fuzzy after so many years.
When he was done, Richard would present you with both halves of your geode. They'd be wet, and sometimes you'd gaze down into a glittering concavity of purple or green. Other times, you'd cry because you'd stupidly picked one of the geodes where the all the crystals were caked with a calcified layer of elf spit.
As we head into NaNoWriMo, I'm reminded of the feeling I got standing in Dick's Rock Shop, watching as that year's mystery stone revealed whatever magic it possessed. After nine NaNoWriMo novels—most of which have trended more towards elf spit than gemstones—I still get an excited stomach-flutter at the start of November. I can't help but feel giddy as I ponder questions like: Will this be the best novel I've ever written? And, secretly: Will this be the best novel ever written in the history of humankind?
Because it really could be.
Then the writing starts, and by the second sentence, two new questions have occurred to me. Namely: What am I doing? And: Could this be the worst novel ever written in the history of humankind?
And you know what? It really could be. But that's fine. Trust me on this. Don't waste your time measuring the success of your NaNo novel by the sparkle of your prose or the rock-solid genius of your plot. The books we write in November won't start out like the novels we buy in bookstores. Because the novels we buy in bookstores didn't start out like bookstore-novels either.
Nope. They started out as way-less beautiful, way-more exciting things called first drafts. These are the dinged-up cousins to final drafts, and they're packed with crazy energy and laughable tangents and embarrassing instances where a main character's name shifts six times over the course of a single chapter.
Creating this reckless, romantic, and potential-filled beast is the first step in writing a great book. It's also a fantastic workout for your imagination, and monkey-barrels of fun. There's a catch, though. Getting through a first draft will require you leave perfectionism and self-criticism at the door. Fear not: We'll keep them both safe and return them to you in December.
But in November, you are beyond criticism. Because you are doing something that few people in the world have the guts to try—you're packing a huge creative challenge into an already-hectic life. You're juggling work and home; family and friends. With all of that going on, you've signed up for NaNoWriMo. Where you've spent the last few weeks hunting through the bin of possible novel ideas, trying to pick out the perfect one. Maybe you've got yours already. Or maybe you feel like you're not quite ready.
It's November 1, writer.
What say we fire up the ol' slab saw and find out what's in there?