Monday, November 23, 2009

Neil Gaiman's Pep Talk, Sort Of

by Joan

Last week, the National Novel Writing Month Web site posted a pep talk from Neil Gaiman Even Mr. Gaiman, author of the bestselling Graveyard Book (and about 25 others I'm embarrassed to say I haven't read), has insecurities, wonders if his writing is good enough. “The search for the word gets no easier, but nobody else is going to write your novel for you.” His essay not only applies to NaNo participants, but to all writers, every day.

He says, “Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.”

His words inspired me. Not only to keep going on NaNo, but also in December, January, February... (And his Web site is really cool, just like him.)

Confession time. I’m way behind (16,812). I committed to 30,000 words, knowing 50,000 was unrealistic for me. Some days I roll right through my daily goal (1,000) and others, well, every hundred words or so, I stop to update my excel spreadsheet. The one I’ve set up to record my writing count for the day. (What can I say, I’m an accountant.)

For the same reason I don’t like to tell people I’m trying to lose weight, I should never have admitted I’m doing NaNo. That way, if I don’t accomplish my goal, no one will be the wiser. The only person I let down is myself.

The whole thing has been unruly from the beginning. I started with the idea of adding 30,000 to my WIP (working title The Architect at Highgate—yes, Niffenegger’s Highgate, and Gaiman’s Highgate, but truly, I started this book last November before I’d heard of their books--plus, I actually did visit the cemetery in 2006). But since I’d outlined that manuscript a while ago and had written all over the place—chapters here, scenes there—on a deadline, adding to it linearly was starting to feel restrictive.

So I started fresh on November sixth, after having accomplished only 3,236 to date. The new manuscript idea formed in my mind after some brainstorming with Elizabeth. This one, as yet unnamed (NaNo draft is the name of the file), follows Aunt Greer, a vivacious has-been actress on the run from the law, and her recently widowed niece, on a cross-country cemetery/soul-searching trek (pun not intended, but actually, applicable). Of course there are ghosts, what good cemetery book doesn’t have a few lost spirits? I’m excited about where it’s headed, but I know right now, I won’t be meeting my goal.

Maybe you (and Mr. Gaiman) might think it’s quitting, that I’m letting myself down, but I don’t. Plans change, goals get revised. And here’s why: Beginning tomorrow, I’m spending Thanksgiving week with family. My husband of nineteen years (as of Saturday), our son (who is getting a well-deserved break from a hectic school and sports schedule), and my Phoenix cousins I haven’t visited with in months. I might even get some quality reading in. Realistically, I’m not going to be writing anything of significance in the next week. If I pick up on November 29, I’ll maybe reach 22,000 if I’m lucky. I’ll be happy with that.

I spend the majority of my time behind my computer, writing, editing, and researching. I’ve already blogged about being a loner. So for me to spend some time away from my desk, with real people instead of imaginary, will be a treat. It’ll probably provide new motivation and a jumpstart to my writing.

And the reading? While I usually read literary and women’s fiction, I’ve got Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere waiting for me in the other room. As of last week, he's got one more fan.

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