Scrap from a Slag Pile

With this document, I hope, begins a new era. But then, I’m always hoping for a new era, aren’t I? But don’t I get them? New eras, they don’t come because of one decision, one thing, but they do come, because I won’t stop trying another new thing. I won’t give up my attempts. So maybe this will languish, and falter, and fall, but it’s an attempt, and for that, I’m glad. It’s a sign that I keep trying.

Trying what, you say? Oh, a hell of a lot of things. Trying to write, to blog, to finish something. Trying to do a good work. Trying to sort out my thoughts. Trying to give my life shape, to fashion it into an arrow, aim it at an end goal, see it fly true. To change. To become more. To become great.

How will one new document, one new project idea, help me do that? Oh, it probably won’t. I’ve tried enough of them by now to know that I’m likely going to stop in a week or so. That makes me sad. But it’s… it’s almost not the point. The point is that I’ve got to keep getting up and trying something, another something, another something, until all of these attempts and false starts and unfinished stories and stories finished years after they were started add up into something, add up into MY story, the story I want to tell.

The big idea with this little concept is that if I create a slag pile, maybe I’ll be able to do year-‘round what I do during NaNoWriMo. Write. Write every day. Write bullsh*t if I must. And when I say that, I mean serious, face-to-keyboard, weeping-on-my-knees, copy-and-paste-a-paragraph-in-pure-cheating-disgrace bullsh*t. Hideous. But I do what I must to get my daily count.

And apparently, that’s something I need to do. Because for every day I write like a worthless gobsh*te, there are two other days. One is a journal day, where I write the sort of thing I’m writing right now, writing from my soul, writing to explain myself to myself. And that is good. Sometimes it becomes a blog post, sometimes it goes nowhere, but that’s not the chief point. The chief point is that sometimes, to quote Flannery O’Connor, I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.

And then there’s that other day. Zombie-mumble days, Dear Diary days, and, glory be, Story days! These are good. Hard, harder than writing like this. So much harder to be satisfied with any passing paragraph; that’s why I can’t do it every day. Some days, I just don’t have it. But if I don’t try, I don’t know. Do I have it today, or not? How many days have passed that I could have written good story and I didn’t?

So this is what it’s for. A thousand words every day, a thousand words of I-don’t-give-a-crap. Just to see… can I do it today? Can I write something that means something today? Can I write a story today? If not, ah well. But now I know. This is a grab for the brass ring, and whether I reach it or not, I mean to lean out, stretch my fingers, and snatch at it on every single go-‘round.

Will this 1K-a-day challenge collapse? Probably. I’m bad at doing anything every single day. But another challenge will rise up after it. I’ll find one, or make one up. One desperate gambit at a time, I will drag myself into authorship. This is my story.

Be A Writer

One needn’t even be swift as a coursing river–moving at all is a step in the right direction. But somehow, even taking a daily brisk and metaphorical walk in the writing business seems to take as much discipline as, you know, taking a daily brisk and literal walk.

I totally am and entirely am not disciplined.

Here’s how I mean. I do NaNoWriMo. That’s National Novel Writing Month; the challenge and a community built around the challenge (originally only in November but now available in April and July) to write 50,000 words in a single month.

The first time I took the challenge, I was fourteen, not a writer, and had no idea what I was getting into. I failed with 30,000 words. The second time I took the challenge, I was fifteen, slightly more of a writer (thanks to those 30,000 words), and had somewhat more of an idea of what I was getting into. I won with 50,000 words.

Every year since then, I have written at least 50,000 words in November. Sometimes in the summer “Camp NaNo” programs as well. Every time since the first that I told myself I’d take the challenge, I’ve had what it takes to bust through the “finish” ribbon.

Which is the strangest thing, because that is the only time that sternly telling myself I’m going to write something = writing something.

The entire rest of the year, during all the interim months, I could hardly dare to call myself a writer at all. Maybe I start a short story. Maybe I brainstorm. Maybe I even write a whole short story, or a blog post! (Let’s not get too crazy, though.)

But if I tell myself, “Look here now, girl; I mean for you to write 500 words a day on any one of your projects,” then I bomb out in a week. If I tell myself, “Look here now, girl; you can have weekends off, but please do it five days a week, at least,” then I persist in failure. “Look here now, girl; at least finish this 25,000 word story—that’s half the length of NaNo.” Oh, sure, I managed. It only took me the scattered efforts of a year and a half.

The trouble my main character has had in getting me to post 100-300 measly words on this blog with any consistency serves to underscore my point, I’m sure.

And yet. If thousands of people turn to me and say, “Look here now, girl; we’re writing 1,667 words per day for 30 days—care to join us?” I say “Why, certainly, good sirs.” And even when a thousand participants don’t even begin, and a thousand here fall off the bandwagon, and a thousand there quit at the finish, and a thousand more can’t catch up because they put off their daily count for too long, I write those 50,000 words.

Every time. For six years. Clearly, this takes more discipline than many people posses.

So why can’t I bloody well make myself write at any other time of the year?

I don’t know. I might not ever. God knows I’ll keep working on it. Sy has managed to get me posting here at least once a week, so maybe there’s hope for it. Maybe in six more years, I can make a Mulan-style training montage of how I became such a prolific uncageable writing-beast.

My current stage.

All I know is, tomorrow is the first day of July NaNoWriMo. And that I owe National Novel Writing Month for my career of choice. And that at 150,000 words a year plus overtime, maybe, just maybe, I can call myself a writer.

So look here now, you; I’m writing 1,667 words a day for 30 days. Care to join me?

It might make a writer out of you.


Hobby Noveling

In a few days, I will be starting Camp NaNoWriMo. That’s right, all the joy and madness of November’s National Novel Writing Month, now deliciously available in August.

For those of you who don’t know what normal NaNoWriMo is, it is anything but normal. The challenge: 50,000 words. One month. Go. More specifically, the challenge is to write 50,000 words of the first draft of a novel. The rushed writing model (1,667 words per day) is designed to shut down people’s Inner Editors, allowing and forcing them to simply get the thing done.

This program has proven instrumental in pushing me off the cliff of “I want to write a novel or two on the side” and into the wild rushing ether of “I want to write novels for a living!”.

But don’t lay the blame on too thick! Such was never their plan. In fact, NaNoWriMo began with the intention of being nothing more than a wild ride and a kick in the pants to the sorts that say they’re going to write a book “someday”.

Their intention, in short, lay no further than hobby noveling.

Hobby noveling: writing a novel, just because you want to. No plans for publication. Writing for your own eyes, perhaps for the eyes of a small circle of friends; perhaps even for no eyes ever again, once the first draft is laid down in type.

Preposterous? Ridiculous? Insane for someone to put so much effort into a private project? Indeed! As preposterous as someone painting for pleasure and never planning to get a gallery. As ridiculous as remodeling that master bathroom that hardly anyone but you and your spouse ever sees. As insane, I say, as personal satisfaction ever is.

So yes, I think writing “just for kicks” should be respected. Writing seems to be the only sphere where people are frowned upon for not desiring to share their work. Hobby novelers, as a rule, are pressured to publish, while someone can write songs and poetry, whittle wooden figurines, and sketch in a private notebook without being pushed to publicize (unless they’re really great).

I really think the idea that the only reason to write is to publish needs to change, and I thank NaNoWriMo for aiding and abetting that change.

And if, by some fluke, a hobby novelist tumbles down the slippery slope towards career writing… I feel their pain. Maybe we can form a support group.

Sometimes, Nine > Fourteen

Mysst is my oldest character, for all she’s the youngest of my cast. She got her start when I was twelve, as my alter-ego unwritten-fanfic persona. She/I was a sword swingin’ Redwall otter. Yeah. You read that right.

When I first heard of National Novel Writing Month at fourteen, I decided to build her a story world, turn her human, and make her — surprise! — fourteen.

I failed at 30,000 words of dull traveling scenes and a combination of cliché and totally ridiculous drama. Still, it was a victory for my writing career; for one, it started me noveling. For another, there were a few gold nuggets in my pile of words.

Mysst, unfortunately, wasn’t one of them.

Failing to see that she’d devolved into  a whiney, wishey-washey bore, I started in on her tale again the next year. Thank heavens Syawn hijacked that one early.

A year and another NaNoWriMo later, I’d finished the story. And boy, was Mysst still lame. Not to mention a little daft. Her main quest, which was intrinsic to the plot, was incredibly simple-minded.

Then inspiration, that fickle, occasionally abusive friend of writers, struck.

I rolled back the years, turning her into a nine-year-old, and with it, making an entirely different person of her. Without my trying to make her anything but five years younger, she overhauled her own character (I can only imagine she had been waiting for just such an opportunity), turning into a tough, disciplined little firebrand, a bossyboots with a wide stubborn streak and surprising adaptability.

She was exactly the kind of girl who would dream up a madcap plan and fly after it on the triple-wings of determination, guilt, and fool’s hope.

So there’s a trick to remember when your character isn’t shaping up: screw around with the numbers. It can turn out that, against all mathematical wisdom, nine is greater than fourteen.

Yo-ho, yo-ho, a writer’s life’s for me!

A meager year ago, I didn’t want to write as a career. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I wanted to write– a book, or two or three, as an aside, while I built a business that would actually bring income.

I’d heard too many tales of The Struggling Artist, of the many, the talented, and the skilled, huddling over their icy typewriters while stereotypical Scrooges of landlords breathed down their necks.
Write for a living? If you enjoy bailing water from a sinking ship.
I knew that lucky breaks (ever heard of Harry Potter or Twilight?) were as rare as lottery-winning unicorns getting struck by lightning twice.

So I thought; great side venture, fun hobby, but I don’t want to spend all my days writing desperately to meet a deadline to make ends meet. I’ll focus first on a good business, secondarily on my writing.

And why on earth did this practical, sensible viewpoint change?

It was the middle of National Novel Writing Month, last November, during my annual writing voyage.
I was slumped at my tiny desk, fingers moving sluggishly and independent of purpose. I had been at it for hours, and I was still over a thousand words away from my daily word count goal.
The plot was dragging its heels, the scene was as stilted as it was directionless, and the prose varied from gag-slimy to choke-dry.
I knew I would have to trash the whole day’s writing hiddeous spew.

That’s when I realized I love writing.
All of it.

I looked at myself then, and said “Tirzah, if you really love it this much, from the golden-fountain days, to this deadline-driven drudgery, why aren’t you planning on doing this for the rest of your life?”

Unable to counter my own passion (not, admittedly, that I tried very hard), I chose the unthinkable. A writer’s life.

Still didn’t fancy the cold apartment and colder landlord, though, so I knew I would need a good business, not to mention a job for immediate income and investment money. So I typed away at my manuscripts, all the while keeping my eyes open for a venture I could get excited about.

Finally, I found what I was looking for: the publication and promotion of my book.

That’s right, I came right back to my writing. But this time, I saw it for the business it really is; creating and marketing the best art possible. Lucky breaks are not just for gambling unicorns– as with any business, the harder and smarter you work, the luckier you get.

So, keyboard in hand and a couple hundred guidebooks under my arm (slight exaggeration. Seriously though, many thanks to The Essential Guide to Getting your Book Published), I now set out into the authorprenuerial life!
Anchors aweigh! Run up the skull and crossed pens!

So, you may ask, is this blog a publicity platform for my work?
…Good heavens,  why ever would you think such a thing?

By hook or Facebook or by tooth or by nail,
The world will read o’ this author’s tale,
Yo-ho, yo-ho, a writer’s life’s for me!