November 11th, 2012 § 4 Comments
I've been a writer for my entire adult life. I've made my living doing nothing else. And as a journalist, I'm pretty confident in what I do. I know how to find sources, interview intelligently, craft a story designed specifically for the audience at hand. If I don't know something, I know where to look for the expertise I need.
But this whole writing a book thing is completely different. I've been toying with the idea of a memoir for a while. I've thought about what I want to write about and I've even worked on a proposal. But at the Willamette Writers Conference in Portland last summer, I met with a bunch of agents, the majority of whom told me that memoirs are treated like novels these days. You no longer write a book proposal for a memoir. You write the whole thing and submit it, like you do with a piece of fiction.
Given that I had worked on a proposal you'd think it would be easy to just sit down and do the writing. But it wasn't. I was conflicted on where to start. And my whole writing life I had started from a specific place I determined was the beginning and written my way to the end. Very occasionally, the start wasn't the start and I'd rewrite it after I finished. But there was a form to the story in my head and it was easy to start.
This was different. My friend Hanks tried to bribe me into daily writing, offering me a dollar for every day I wrote 500 words, and charging me a dollar for every day I didn't. I could earn $7 a week, but my potential loss was just $5. That lasted about three days before health issues caught up with me. And I'm sure a bit of trepidation on where to start and where to go after I started.
Some of my writer friends on Freelance Success had been talking about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) which occurs each November (so should it be NaNoWriNo, with November the last word?). The goal is to write 50,000 words in a month. Ideally, they will be coherent words that hang together as a whole. Like, you know, a novel.
And so, on a whim on November 1 at 5 p.m. Pacific, I signed up. In the first 11 days of the month, I have skipped one day, and have more than 16,000 words written. I think that barring one or two days writing, I don't know what the hell I'm doing. I'm barfing words onto the screen. There is nothing that hangs on anything else.
But writer friends who have written far more books than I can dream of (hello Lisa Rogak, and congratulations on making the Best Sellers list with Dogs of Courage!) tell me that I need to just keep going. No editing, no looking back, no starting over. Keep puking up words and sometime in the next three weeks, in the 50,000 words I hope to complete, will be the nugget of my book. And then I can start all over writing that.
Now, I have another couple thousand words to get out before the clock strikes midnight. It's a glamorous life being an aspiring author, isn't it?