There are a lot of things happening this month. People growing (hopeless) mustaches. People voting for other people. People remembering people. People writing novels about fictional people, and etc.
The focus is the last one: it’s National Novel Writing Month and like many other writers, I have dusted off an old idea and went gung-ho for the basis of a novel.
I have always wanted to write a novel. The only trouble I had was the stupid little voice inside my head that said things like, “You’re not good enough” or “Can you really hold a story that long without losing readers?”
This time around, I told the little voice to fudge off and dropped the negativity act for a more optimistic outlook on life. Call it the next stage in self-improvement.
The novel I am currently tinkering away on has some strange origins. It started off from a random writing exercise prompt from 2006-2007 era.
The prompt was essentially:
“Write a scene where two people are arguing about a room full of plants. 500 words.”
Okay, cool. So I popped open my former word processor and went to town on the idea. When I was finished, I wanted to copy and paste the original prompt for safe keeping. Then I noticed that I misread a word. The writing exercise asked for “plants” when I read “pants”.
So now I had 500 words of two characters arguing about a room full of pants.
I filed the document away, while chuckling and shaking my head at the little mistake. I never thought too much about it until years later.
CUT TO OCTOBER 2012.
I haven’t participated in many writing contests, but was emailed a notice from a post on the Facebook group from my old Scriptwriting program. One of the graduates posted a link to a writing contest for TV pilots.
I thought, “Okay, hey, I can do that.”
So I compiled all the ideas I could do for half hour comedies and hour long dramas. One of them, as you can guess, was the writing exercise about the pants. But for some reason, I wasn’t sure which one to put it under.
Meanwhile, I had recently watched a number of free creative writing lectures by Brandon Sanderson, which are great if you haven’t seen them yet. Right off the bat in lecture one, I picked up some advice that cemented my beliefs about story ideas. The main points from that clip are (I transplanted them from here.):
- Ideas are usually cheap (although some ideas are more awesome than others)
- Don’t let that awesome idea or novel you’ve had for 10 years hang like a mill stone around your neck. Put it aside, do something new, and learn how to write.
- A bad idea written well will almost always be superior to a good idea written poorly.
- Writing will always have moments of pure drudgery as well as inspiration. At the end of the day, your readers won’t be able to distinguish between the two.
Here is the original clip. The story about Jim Butcher and the bet that turned into the Codex Alera book series is a great example.
Around this same time, I received another email reminding me about NaNoWriMo.
The conditions were perfect for the inevitable decision to use the pants idea, not for the contest, but for NaNoWriMo.
And guess what? At about 11,578 words (including previous unplaced scenes), the story is morphing into something unexpected. Sure, it’s still bubbling and cooking, but I like it. No, I friggin’ love it. Even if it turns out to be a mediocre novel, I can proudly say it’s my mediocre novel.
The lesson?: When you hear the advice to keep all your ideas, no matter how (mundane/crazy/stupid/lame/horrible/etc.), just do it.
Also, figure out a filing system. Trust me on that one.
(song found via @XanderBennett on Twitter… I like it a lot)