Taking the Plunge

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Oh god what have I gotten myself into now?

Oh god what have I gotten myself into now?

“You should write a book!”

“I wish you’d write a novel!”

“I just LOVE your stories; why don’t you write a novel?”

“You are such a talented writer; you need to write a book.”

Okay, FINE. Y’all talked me into it, mostly because I’m tired of hearing it! So November is National Novel Writing Month or “NaNoWriMo” to the initiated and since all one has to do is sign up on their website, which I did, I suppose I’m one of the initiated.

I’m also one of the terrified. I’ve never been much on challenges. Someone would say, “I dare you to ____,” and I’d politely decline. My reasons ran the gamut from inability to fear to outright cowardice, but the results were the same. I’d be branded a chicken, but I managed to avoid broken bones, road rash, and grounding for my entire childhood and teenage years so I’m not complaining.

This challenge, however, has been a long time coming. I really have been pestered for years by people who seem to think I can produce a work of book length which people, besides them, will want to read. It was a common theme in college from my professors, especially my Southern Literature professor and my Writing Methods professor. Some of my colleagues (and a good many students) during my teaching career would goad me to turn the tales I’d spin for them of my childhood and adolescence into a book length narrative and even today, friends and family delight in saying, “I’m still waiting for that book!”

So, I’m taking on NaNoWriMo. The challenge is to turn out a rough draft of a NOVEL in thirty days, beginning November 1st and ending Midnight on November 30th. My biggest worry is the stories people love me to tell and write so much are not eligible for this contest. Under the rules, those constitute a “personal memoir” and that genre isn’t allowed. Instead, I’m supposed to produce “a work of fiction with a minimum of 50,000 words within the 30 days from 11-1-2013 to 11-30-2013.” Of course, it for memoirs to be disallowed since I’ve got a person or two still to pass away before I could write EXACTLY what I want to say and not catch hell from someone.

To give you a little perspective, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is 46,118 words, Kurt Vonnegut’s much-lauded and loved Slaughterhouse-5 is 49,459 words, and that bane of the existence of American Lit high school students everywhere — The Great Gatsby — weighs in at 47,094 words. By contrast, HP and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first and shortest of the Harry Potter series is 77,325 words, my favorite novel — To Kill a Mockingbird has 99,121 words, and Tolstoy’s Russian tome War and Peace tips the scales at a heartbreaking 587,287 words or 37,140 MORE words than the entire Lord of the Rings PLUS The Hobbit.

Looking at the word count next to those paragons of fiction, 50K doesn’t seem like anything nearly insurmountable, but I know when I sit down and look at that blinking cursor taunting me from the top of a blank screen, 50K words are going to be magnified. I figure it’s a lot like eating calamari, sure, that bite doesn’t look very big, but when you pop it in your mouth and start chewing, it grows exponentially! I look at it as 50 of my typical 1000 word blog posts set end to end. That works out to around 1.6 blog posts per day . . . EVERY DAY instead of my usual schedule of three or four posts a month. I’m not thinking this is going to be easy.

But, to quote Julius Caesar as he stood by the cold rushing River Rubicon on January 10, 49 BC, “Ἀνερρίφθω κύβος” or “Let the die be cast!” If I’m going to write a book, I may as well do it in November. I have a couple of ideas I’m going to be whittling down over the next few days, but if any of y’all have something you think I could knock out of the park, be sure to let me know in the comments or drop me an email.

In the meantime, love y’all, and keep those feet clean!

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