#NaNoWriMo: Shall I? (Diary, 11/1 to 11/2/18)


{11/1/18}  Weight 218.8.

So, some dictation before breakfast, eh?


{11/2/18}  Weight 219.2.

Pablo has been urging me, for months, to participate in NaNoWriMo, a nationwide challenge to write 1,700 words a day on a novel, thus completing a first draft of 50,000 words in one month.  It started yesterday.  We talked about it yesterday, around 10:00 pm, and I held out a slight possibility that I would give it a try.  I also told him that it just doesn’t work with my established priorities of Kick Me and getting the Prison Diary dictated, plus blogging and current diary.  I also said that if I were to do such a thing, it would only be likely if I made it wild, bizarre, with people crashing through the ceiling (as in the movie, Moulin Rouge, the Baz Luhrmann one) and alligators (just my random thought).

Reading Wordsworth’s Prelude last night also reminded me of my more-or-less completed novel (first draft) that ends with “Death in the Desert.”  I have this urge to write about a writer in nature, that is, an oldish man out hiking and writing poetry or something, getting involved with something creepy ala Lovecraft, and probably a girl with “mysterious powers.”  In other words, “Death in the Mountains”; it’s very close to what I’ve already written.  Certainly it’s a bit of a rehash of that old novel, though I wouldn’t include the last half, the “death” part.

Do I want to write this?  Yes and no, mostly no.  I would like to have written it, but my objections expressed to Pablo remain.  On the other hand, if I just took time away from Twitter, that would be an overall plus:  more interesting, possibly a better goal.  The way to do it would be to “not post any tweets until the novel writing is done for the day.”

Given these thoughts, do I want to write it?  No.  And if I did, I wouldn’t want to make it bizarre, not beyond the limits of “magic realism” (as I understand it).

Still thinking about it, wondering how to start, I am somewhat inclined to write it as the man’s diary, written each evening after the day’s events; a sort of epistolary novel, but without a correspondent.  The progression would be to have the man wondering if there were something magical about the mountain he was climbing, with growing conviction that there is, and finally the Lovecraftian wonder-horror-whatever for as long as I want to (or have to) extend it.

The diary vehicle is pretty limiting, but it also adds the easy tweak of an unreliable narrator.

Now, I haven’t attempted any fiction writing since I left prison, where I was writing right up until the last week or two, so, over two years.  That doesn’t mean anything.  But I can see that if I take on this project, it will mean continuing the almost total neglect of KM.  And that would be bad.  One way to handle this would be to limit my on-bus reading to KM, which could be done but which doesn’t appeal at all because working on KM doesn’t appeal at all.  Yet it must be done, it is my top priority.

Which still leaves me undecided about NaNoWriMo.  Well.  If I don’t start it today, then I can forget about it.

I just can’t see anything much here except the downside, which awakens my “Imp of the Perverse,” to do it because it doesn’t make any sense.  Granted, I have no idea how it might go, how much I might enjoy the work…er, the story, and love the finished product and so on.  [“The Imp of the Perverse” is an essay-story by Edgar Allan Poe, which I recommend to all who favor their dark side at times.  Link]

In thinking more about the story, the elfin girl begins to assume the form of a forest spirit, something very like a cliché.  It would be necessary to avoid that easy way, but alternatives are slow in coming to mind, and right now my stomach is clamoring for breakfast.

In reading part of the 10/31/18 entry, I’m all wistful about “what might have been” if I had pursued chemistry.  Now, work as a chemist is just about as tiresome to contemplate as any desk job—I understand that the work is typically for a paint company or in cosmetics, some crap like that, and with many, many experiments that are trying to find some slight improvement over existing formulas.  But in fact, a revolution in chemistry was occurring that I knew nothing about.  When I took another chemistry class, this one at USC, somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty years later, the subject was practically unrecognizable.  Instead of the kind of “cookbook chemistry” I knew, where one follows described experiments to try to make them work, one made endless entropy calculations.  Working toward that discovery could have been totally absorbing; but that would have been Ph.D.-level work, which I might well never have pursued.  This is all idle speculation; my best guess is that I am not the kind of person who would have been content pursuing that much schooling.  I AM SIMPLY TOO LAZY.  I might work intensively on Rubik’s Cube for two days straight; I’ve never worked on anything for two years straight.  [Perhaps my longest continued effort, aside from writing, was creating a computer language compiler, another incomplete project.]

And my waffling over NaNoWriMo is similar:  I don’t want to do it because it looks like work instead of play.  No matter how playful I want to make my writing, it always ends up like work.  It’s very hard to be “playful to order,” i.e., on command.  The only thing I really enjoy, it seems, is criticizing someone else’s work, which suggests that “I shouda been a editor.”


Okay, let’s give it a try.  I can waste a month, after all, in the hopes of (a) creating an amusing little novel, and (b) discovering something about myself and/or the writing process.  The former is not unlikely, the latter is.

Today’s entry is something over nine hundred words.  Can I do twice this much, every day, on a story that I haven’t even thought about until today?  Sure.  Piece of cake.  Right?  Hardly.  It’s a stomach-turning challenge.  Or maybe I’m just hungry.

I dread trying.  That’s the fact.  Not because I think I can’t do it—though it’s easy to sit here typing about it for an hour to produce half of what I would need every day, leading me to feel that any writing challenge just won’t be that hard (because this is so easy).  In fact, I know how moody I am when it comes to sticking with anything.  There will be days that I just loathe the thought of trying to sit down and write without a thing in my head.  And I really don’t know how to handle that except, as Stephen King expressed it, “shoveling shit from a sitting position.”  The problem is, if you do that, it just makes the next day’s work that much harder.  I think.  This is a “start writing and keep on, never looking back” kind of thing.  It would be all-consuming, and I don’t want to be all-consumed.  I don’t even want all of today to be consumed in this, because that’s what I’m thinking:  I would need something in hand each day to get me started.

So now I’ve got 1200 words.  It took about 90 minutes.  Ouch.  My mental picture of 1700 words was like two pages; it’s closer to four.

[You can see in this diary entry, perhaps, that I’m trying to talk myself into NaNoWriMo, while alternatively trying to talk myself out of it.  Perhaps this is what rational deliberation is all about  These bracketed comments were composed while editing this entry for blog-posting..]

The real problem is, I no longer aspire to write fiction.  If I’m going to write 1700 words a day, let’s put that effort into writing my philosophy, eh?  Which in practice would be diary writing.  Whatever discovery I might make about myself or my writing process presumably could be discovered that way, too.  And “the Imp of the Perverse”?  He can take a hike.

After breakfast I tried, briefly, to start the story, using the dictation app.  It was so maddening that I gave it up.  Then I wrote the above paragraph.  If the dictation app had been perfect instead of stupid, would I still be writing the novel?  I really don’t know.

Diary entries from 6/1 to 9/30 are available in this file:  link.
Diary entries from 10/1 on are available here:  link.

Copyright 2018 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s