My (not so) Great American Novel

December 2, 2009

If anyone out there is still listening, I apologize for my eight-month absence, but I’ve finally given birth (prematurely, I might add) to my first novel thanks to nanowrimo, a dandy little exercise in pain, humiliation, self-motivation and the limitations of caffeine.
Bottom line, it meant tapping out about 1,700+ words a day during the entire month of November, which is complicated by the fact that it is my second-busiest month of the year at work and full of other friendly distractions, like Thanksgiving. I spent almost the entire month about 2,000 words behind (you can track your progress on the site), but, thanks to some marathon sessions over the long weekend, I managed to finish a day early and several words over the 50,000-word goal (instead of a day late and a dollar short, as is my wont).
I admit I hesitated at signing up, at committing to having a short novel (and 50k is short) by the end of the month. I have rooms full of unfinished projects, piles of yarn and fabric and paper and books, with two abandoned master’s degrees lodged in there somewhere. The Spouse just rolls his eyes when I announce a new goal. But I really wanted to do this. I wanted this off my Life List. And I somehow managed to pull it off.
It is, of course, my roman à clef, my thinly veiled autobiography (well, maybe 30 percent of it anyway), which Maud Newton (who is attempting a similar feat in her own first novel) in a well-timed blogpost suggests that we all have to get out of our systems before we can do any REAL writing. As a measure of what constitutes real writing, Maud leaves it to her hero, Mark Twain: “A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it.”
Wanna read it? Well, you can’t. This baby is UGLY. It isn’t even close to being done. There’s even a bunch of stuff that I’ve got to get rid of, little stories and anecdotes that pleased me at the time but don’t do anything to move the plot forward. In fact, the more autobiographical parts are the least interesting. I was at my best during November when I sat down and just let the characters loose, when I was able to get out of my own way, as Jane puts it. For a few glorious moments, it actually got to be a little Zen.
I hope to have a full draft by the end of December, and then I’ll start the real rewrite, including a bunch of research, fact-checking and some field trips.
I’ll definitely do it again. Next November, I’ll issue a call for y’all to join me.


6 Responses to “My (not so) Great American Novel”

  1. Mallory Says:

    This is so awesome! I love projects that change your life. I am so very impressed. Lincoln is just like Eric with the little eye roll when I announce a new project. I am so happy you got this done. I know that you might think your little baby is “ugly” right now, but most babies take a bit to look their best. I am so excited for you. I can’t wait to read it when you are all done!

    • msmeta Says:

      Thanks, dear. I’ll definitely be showing off the “baby” when it’s a little more presentable.

      Only two more weeks until we get to see you!

  2. Duchess Says:

    I’m still listening. And so glad for a new post. Congratulations on the novel! I really can’t imagine doing such a thing in a single month. Trollope used to write 1500 words a day before heading to work at the post office. His best work is — okay sublime might not be the right word, but I love it. His lesser novels show real sign of his haste, but also give hope for us all: in writing practice makes better, if not perfect.

    Meanwhile I look forward to reading more on your blog.

  3. byjane Says:

    Congratulations. I only know two people who have finished NaNoWriMo and you’re both Mormons. Is there some celestial connection???

    BTW, if I’m the Jane you’re linking to, it’s blogspot not wordpress.

    • msmeta Says:

      I sincerely doubt the celestial connection, at least in my case.
      Sorry about the wrong address. Now that I think of it, I vaguely remember your jumping the WordPress ship sometime last year, eh?

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