October is zipping along, and that means only one thing: Christmas decorations in Wal-Mart! Also Biketoberfest, Halloween, Breast Cancer Awareness… OK, October means a lot of things. But mostly it means that very soon it’ll be November, time to crank out another novel for National Novel Writing Month, and that means preparation.
Not preparation for the novel itself, of course. That would startle my creativity, which is a timid creature that must be coaxed and wheedled out into the open like a tiny fawn. Sudden movements startle my creativity, causing it to bound back into my mental bushes and hide, cowering, behind my Christina Ricci fantasies. No, I need to prepare my Writing Environment.
Competing in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, demands that you expel a 50,000 word novel in 30 days of excruciating, brain-bashing authorship, leaving behind such diversions as accuracy, grammar, first-run movies, or sleep. NaNoWriMo — an annual event that started in 1999 with 21 people and kept growing, movie-monster-like, until 79.000 participants joined in last year — is designed to force you to get up off your butt and sit back down on your butt and write something. Wanted to write a novel one day but didn’t think you could? In November, you’ll have to if you want the peer pressure to stop. It’s a wonderful, exhilarating time during which you’ll push yourself to the limit of your endurance and discover your hidden writer within.
And towards that end, you’ll need supplies. There’s the obvious items, like something to write on, something to write with, and 300 cases of highly caffeinated beverages. But that’s just getting started.
If you’re going digital, you’ll need a word processor. Any one will do, but let me recommend Q10, a program seemingly designed for breakneck writing. It runs only in a full-screen mode, so no other IM or e-mail windows can intrude. The info bar at the bottom can keep track of how many words you’ve written and how many you have left to go. Plus it makes your keyboard sound like a typewriter, which is just cool. This is a small, fast program created to make you spit out words faster than an auctioneer with hiccups. Future versions may actually yell at you if you stop typing too often.
If you’re writing by hand, invest in an expensive pen, perhaps something in an oak or steel that will bring some heft with it. Let the sensuousness of it seduce you into finding more time to write, just to enjoy the way it feels gliding across the page. And buy a pack of pencils for when you lose the pen.
You’ll also need notebooks in every room of your house, in your car, and at your place of employment so you’ll never miss the chance to jot down more dialogue. Otherwise you have to yell it at people as you drive by and hope they remember it for when you track them down later.
Remember, you can make notes with anything on anything. Lipstick, blood, fruit juice, fingernails, carefully thrown eggs, just about anything can help you retain that great plot idea you just had at the stoplight. And after you’ve been pulled over for trying to write a new character’s name in the intersection with tire skid marks, be sure to ask the policeman to add it to your ticket. Otherwise you just know you’ll lose it, happens every time.
For the actual novel-writing, be sure to shut off your phone, mail service, cable TV, and Internet for the month of November. Heave your cell phone into the back of an operating cement mixer that’s heading out of town. Post large, angry signs in your yard, and invest in really mean-looking dogs that won’t require a lot of hands-on maintenance or emotional attachment. Send the kids to camp, ideally one that won’t complain that they’re not open in the fall. Pack your spouse off to an in-law. Pack your in-laws off to another state. The point here is the reduction of distraction. Consider thick clothing, possibly made of insulation, to dampen your own heartbeat and digestive functions.
If you can’t dispose of your family in a mutually acceptable and legal manner, remove yourself. Go to a motel or a friend’s place or a nearby shantytown. Find someplace private enough that you can get some real writing done. I suggest highway underpasses, the tops of water towers (but not during Homecoming), and the car trunks of total strangers. Not only will no one think to look for you there, but you’ll get a lot of ideas for storylines, often involving the tire jack murder of a total stranger who keeps hitting speed bumps.
If removing yourself is impractical, establish your Writing Environment in your home and warn your family to avoid you at all costs, something they may already be doing by this point anyway. Find a private room, set up your writing materials, and lock yourself in. Meals can be passed under the door – beef jerky, thin steaks, and spaghetti are all good for this – and bathroom needs can be managed via window.
Oh, and lock and board up the window.
Only then, finally, can you settle down at midnight-oh-one on November 1st and begin to write your novel in peace and without interruption.
And then, thanks to all of your planning and foresight in creating the perfect Writing Environment, when you suddenly realize you have absolutely no clue what to write about since you haven’t planned any sort of plot or outline or anything, no one will be able to hear you whimper.