Astute readers will recall that on 03 November, I described entering an online contest called National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, or NNWM as I abbreviate it). The intent is to encourage people who've always wanted to write a novel, to do so with guidance, encouragement and a 30-day deadline. That works out to about 1666 words per day, a very manageable number, even if one works and/or has a family to raise. No one profits from your work -- in fact, after November's composition and December's revisions, the writer retains all rights and ownership, and the website deletes all entries. It is an altruistic venture in the purest sense.
The "contest" is actually with oneself, not between writers -- the challenge is to discipline oneself to sit down daily and write. The fun of it is, there's no one looking over your shoulder, judging grammar, syntax or quality of content. It is simply an exercise to boost the aspiring writer off dead center, and get into the writerly habit.
"Thirty days and nights of literary abandon"
My story centers on a man who is single, and learning about the world of online dating services. His exploration consumes most of the story, with some space devoted to contrasting being single now to being single in the mid-1980s, pre-Internet, when one's choices were limited to blind dates through friends (iffy), the bar scene (ugh), or personals ads in the local alterntive newspaper. The latter was, in those days before AIDS, actually quite a safe and fun way to meet people. A teaser -- my character learns through both personals ads experience and online experience that of those women who are reasonable prospective matches, roughly half turn out to be duds (they lied about their age or their weight or their intelligence, or were simply not a good psychological fit: another fourth rated a second or third date but didn't really go anywhere; slightly less than a fourth became relationships of varying duration; and one (the last one, obviously) becomes true love. The devil is in the details ....... the story describes examples of each interaction, with names and other particulars changed to protect the identities of the innocent (or the guilty).
Well, in spite of starting late, I finished yesterday. The NNWM website validated my word count at 50,921 -- or an average of 1959 words per writing day. The experience was a tremendous confidence booster, and an inspiration. I was increasingly aware of something that many writers describe -- how one's characters take on a life of their own, with their own aspirations, quirks, and follies. Throw in their interactions with each other, and with their social environment, and the writer starts to feel a bit like a reporter at times, rather than a creator. It is only a feeling, of course. All those people and events arise from our conscious or subconscious minds. Still, a lot of fun. I never knew from day to day, what was going to end up on the page as I sat down to write.
This first book is not likely to see publication -- though the premise is relevant and the prose is passable. I almost feel possessive of it, wanting to share it with only those few whom I trust. We shall see. My thanks to my friend Celeste for introducing me to NNWM. I shall forever be in her debt.