For a while now – OK, for quite a while now – I’ve been thinking about writing a book. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with thinking about writing a book; I have discovered, though, that thinking about things and doing things are not the same things.
Some of you know that, because of some pesky health issues, I have been off of work. This means that I have time to do stuff that I normally wouldn’t. (Whether I feel like doing those things is, of course, a different story. For example, cleaning out the storage room.)
But, again, having time to do things and making time to do things are not the same things.
It’s quite possible that you didn’t know that November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNo WriMo. (I thought they should have called it National Book Writing Month so they could have called it NaBoo Wrimo, which has a more Star Warsy vibe to it. Boba Fett, for example, could have had a side kick named Naboo Wrimo.)
The NaNo WriMo people issue a challenge every November – write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Breaking that down, you need to write 1667 words / day for 30 days.
Yesterday, I accepted the challenge. (After noting that they don’t say it has to be a good novel.)
Now, I have a number of ideas that I think could be turned into book ideas, but, as I thought about them, I think that they are bigger than I could pull off in 30 days. Or 60 days. Maybe ever.
By the way, for full disclosure, I have never written a book before. Don’t know how to do it. Never really attempted it. Don’t know the mechanics of how to do it. You know … just thought about it.
Plus, as you know, I’m not the brightest bulb in the lighting store, if you know what I mean.
All of which meant that yesterday, November 1, I was staring at a blank screen. No ideas. Nothing.
As my mind raced through possibilities, I kept coming back to one idea – keep it simple, Saskatoonian.
Having done zero (0) research, I needed to do something where details couldn’t be called into question. Hmmm. How about a personal story?
Brilliant! I already know the facts. In fact, I wouldn’t need to even make anything up. It. Already. Happened.
I started writing about how I learned to ride my bike.
My neighbour, Mark, was the coolest guy I knew. And he had the coolest stuff. One of the cool things he had was a bicycle. Not just any bicycle. No, this was a metallic green bike, with the banana seat, ape hanger handlebars, and the fat back tire.
He came over with his bike and <Yawn> he … um … <Yawn!>
You’re right. Who cares? I was even boring myself.
The only other thought I had was westerns.
When I was younger, I read westerns. A LOT of westerns. The great thing about westerns is that the story is so simple – there’s a good guy and a bad guy. And a girl. The bad guy does something, well, bad to either the good guy or the girl. The good guy kicks the bad guy’s butt AND gets the girl. The End.
I can do that!
So, as I sat in front of my ancient, creaking computer, I realized that I still had nothing.
Before despairing, however, I remembered an interview I had seen with Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino was asked how he wrote his movies, and he said something like I put two characters in a room and listen to them talk until a story comes out.
So, that’s what I did. And, as my characters talked, they went ahead and named each other. One was the straight man and the other was funny. Eventually, a little kid burst into the room with some bad news.
And I had the beginning of a story.
The old me – the one who was a bit of a perfectionist and needed to be smart and in control of everything – would have tossed that out. I would have thought about the idea. I would have tried to map the whole thing out in my mind. I would have fussed about the characters.
In short, I would have done nothing.
I used to think that writing a book was something only “gifted” (whatever that means) people did. You know, the types who know the whole story ahead of time, have it all outlined, know all the dialogue …
I’m guessing there are those types of people out there; I, however, am not one of them.
Now, I sort of figure that writers generally use the BIC (Butt In Chair) method of writing. ie put your butt in a chair and don’t get up until you’ve written something.
A friend of mine says there are two types of writers: architects and gardeners. Architects plan everything out and execute. Gardeners plant a seed and see what happens. One’s not better than the other. It’s just different ways to the same end.
Perhaps you can guess what type I am.
One of the biggest things that illness has taught me is that I’m not in control of everything in my life. Things happen, and I need to respond (or ignore) these things.
I’ve also learned that I don’t need to be in control of everything. And maybe that control is a bit of a sham, anyway.
I’ve realized something pretty important – In life, and maybe with a book, I don’t have to know the end. When I get there, I think I’ll know it. Unlike life, if I need to foreshadow something in my story (I always wondered how authors knew how to do that!), I could go back and put it in later! <forehead smack>
So, I’m telling myself that I should just write. I can figure out the rest later. And edit. And rewrite. And maybe just toss the whole thing.
Now, November is really the worst month I could be doing this. I’m not feeling too great at the moment. I am likely going to be gone for two, entire, weekends. My office needs to be cleaned, and my sock drawer is in desperate need of reorganizing.
But, as I think back to learning how to ride my bike – thanks, Mark – I realize that I didn’t know how to ride when I started out, either. I just got on and pedaled and fell over and skinned my knees and cried … and then I did it all over again. And again. And again.
And then, one day, it was the open road, the wind in my hair (before helmets), and the whole world in front of me.
A bit like life, I think.
So, I’ll try to keep you up to date on how things are going. Good or bad.
By the way, my first day’s word count total was 2763.