November 15, 2017

Horse 2340 - Delete Everything - NaNoWriMo 2017


With one press of the delete key, I destroyed fifteen days worth of words. With one single strike, the story of two brothers and two sisters, which amounted to a tad over 27,000 words, has been sent to the great Memory Hole. It was surprisingly easy.

November is NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. That sounds daunting but it only works out to be 1667 words a day and given that I write blog posts that are longer than that, what would seem like a Herculean task, is actually not all that difficult. The thing that I have learnt after doing several of these over the years though is that although volume isn't a problem, the frustration when you know that you have something which you ultimately don't like, is immense.

50,000 words is sufficiently short enough for me to write four chapters which all follow a pretty standard sort of basic template. There's a problem, two complications and the resolution which contains either two or three loose enda which may or may not be tied up by the end. There's a definite beat to it and it's simple enough that I don't need to expend that much brain power to work it out. In that respect, writing a novel is like solving a self imposed puzzle where the solution is unknown but logical.
This year though, I've reached the half way point and have decided that I just don't care how the story ends, I don't particularly care about the characters even though they are products of my own imagination and those things added together have meant that I don't really care about ending the novel. To press the delete key on this occasion and to have all of the the words simply disappear forever is of no great loss to me.

It has however given me an interesting thought though. I wonder what great novels never existed because the author couldn't be bothered any more. Maybe if I had been someone like Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, Arthur Conan Doyle or JK Rowling, where my livelihood depended on producing work, then maybe I might have seen ​the necessity of ploughing through because that would mean that I get to eat (seriously, if you read through The Pickwick Papers you get the distinct impression that Dickens was just putting words together for the sake of collecting cheques from his publishers) but because I am an amateur who has never even seen enough money to buy a cup of coffee, then the only thing that I've missed out on is perhaps a few sleeps on the train, if that.

I think that one of the reasons why I like to write so much is that I think that I have a fairly methodical internal monologue. I can put that to use for me by sticking keyboard at the end of my fingers and then watch as words flow out (but not like endless rain into a paper cup because that's an inherently idiotic idea - at some point really early on, you're going to fill up the paper cup). I also just like the way that words fit together. We probably have only a small number of words in everyday usage but we're always finding ways to make them express new ideas, or the same boring ideas in new ways. I'm sure that if I was a native Mandarin speaker, I'd find joy in the rising and falling of tone and intonation; if I was a native Italian speaker, I'd find joy in the inherent rhythm of the language; if I was a native Hindi speaker, I'd find joy in the way that it wants to tumble with pitch. Because I am either blessed or cursed with English as my native tongue, then the way that it sounds and its Meyer are both known to me, and so that we internal monologue sounds far nicer than on any occasion that I open my mouth to speak.

When you throw all of that at a story, you get something which begins to take on its own kind of life. I had a fairly good idea of how this year's novel would sound if it was read and​ getting half way through it, was enough to convince me that it wasn't worth the effort. If I had borrowed it from the library, I would have thought that it was well written but I still would have returned it before finishing it because I would have been bored by it. If you have a story which is so boring that you can't be bothered to finish writing, then you surely can not expect anyone else to bother with it either.

15 days, 27294 words, no point. This novel did not live long in the memory and so the only verdict was death by delete key. Delete.

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