To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.
- Leonard Bernstein
Every year for the past ten years I’ve toyed with the idea of finishing my novel. My poor plot outline has changed so many times, been scraped and begun anew, that I never seemed to be making any forward progress. My characters gained a little more depth, my world became a little more colorful and full of history, but the story always hovered around chapter one.
I sat down and wrote out chapter one a few times, sharing it with a few people, taking criticism and editing away. My biggest problem was that I’m not a from-the-hip author. I need planning, careful outlining, character sketches and biographies, country histories and cultural overviews. I need to know the staple products in the region and justify the existence of rivers with the rainfall and terrain in the area. I need to draw up charts of flood cycles, crop infestations, wind directions and migratory patterns. I need to know everything before I can do anything.
And so for the past ten years I’ve struggled to get anywhere in my novel because I can’t get everywhere. This year, though, I’m done. My outline is nearing completion and my world is in a clear enough state that I’m comfortable guessing my way through the rest. I know that the natives of the Monastiraki mountain range subside on staple crops of olives and wheat, and use the two together in a olive liquor that will take the hair off an ox. And I know about the various tides of the Ioma river that spans a distance that would run from Moscow to Johanasburg. All of this I know and it will have to be enough.
Next month is the tenth anniversary of NaNoWriMo. That’s the National Novel Writing Month, for those not in the know. The goal of the event is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s 1667 words a day, or about 3 pages in Word. The timeline is aggressive because that’s what authors really need. I know as well as the next writer how easy it is to get wrapped up in editing as you go. You write a sentence, then rewrite it for hours until it’s perfect. With NaNoWriMo, that’s just not an option.
No time for distractions, for checking e-mail, reading blogs, learning to speak Portugese, or how to tame wild ferrets. No time for procrastination, saying, “I’ll work on this tomorrow, or this weekend.” No time for excuses.
50,000 words won’t finish my book. It will get me a good chunk of the way there, though, and that’s what’s important. Whether I finish or not, at the end of November, I’ll have crossed that difficult chapter two mark and I wont look back.
If any other aspiring authors are out there and want to join me, you can add me as a buddy on the NaNoWriMo site. My username is “jamestomasino”. Good luck, and pray for me!