Are you participating in National Novel Writing Month?
If you’ve never heard of it, the two-cent summary is that it is a challenge to write a novel of at least 50,000 words by the end of November. It doesn’t have to be a good one. The end result does not even have to make sense. Don’t bother editing. Participants will be quick to remind you to write first, edit later.
Write first, edit later? Seriously? “That novel will be a bunch of garbledeegook!” you might say. And you would not be wrong for saying that. The thing to remember about NanoWriMo is – every novel starts out as a pile of garbledeegook.
Take any classic novel, film, TV episode, whatever. They all started out in the brain of a writer and said writer had to mix the thoughts around in his brain for awhile before he got things right. Consider these recently discovered entries from Shakespeare’s personal notebook:
DAY 1 – The title of my next play? Romeo and Hildegard! Two lovers who meet, fall in love, enjoy a delightful wedding ceremony, and take part in many years of bliss all the while their respective familes go out of their way to display their acceptance of the situation.
DAY 2 – What was I thinking who would pay 2 shillings to watch such tripe! I must think of a way to liven things up!
DAY 3 – Romeo and Hildegard? Hildegard? Really? I have to think of a new name for the female lead. Jessica? Janet?
DAY 4 – Romeo and Juliet! They meet! They fall in love! Their families despise one another and they send Romeo and Juliet a sternly worded letter that they disapprove of their union! The End!
DAY 5 – Rubbish, Shakespeare. Rubbish. Quit writing and get a job at your father’s used horse dealership while you still can.
DAY 6 – Romeo and Juliet! Their families are the Montagues and the Capulets and they have a longstanding feud! Perhaps representatives of the respective families engage in quarrelsome activities that doom the lovers’ union!
DAY 7 – Mercutio gets run over by a horse. No, he gets brained with a frying pan. No! Stabbed by Tybalt! And his dying words are, “I am very offended to have been stabbed!”
DAY 8 – No, he says, “A Plague on both your houses!” Yes, thus illustrating how petty feuds often pull unsuspecting bystanders into the fray.
DAY 9 – Romeo and Juliet run away from Verona. They live till a ripe old age and have many babies.
DAY 10 – No, we must have a sad ending. Romeo and Juliet attempt to sneak out of Verona. However, the city is protected by a mighty dragon who eats Romeo. Distressed, Juliet’s rage gives her magical powers that she uses to burn Verona to the ground.
DAY 11 – Preposterous! Wait, I’ve got it! Juliet attempts to get away from her family by taking a drug that makes her look dead but actually only causes her to go into a deep sleep for 2 days. She sends a message to Romeo to meet her at the tomb. Romeo fails to receive the message due to the incompetence of the Verona Postal Service.
DAY 12 – Romeo meets her at the tomb. The drug has turned Juliet into a zombie. She feasts on Romeo’s brains.
DAY 13 – Juliet wakes up. Romeo is overjoyed. They run away, live a long, happy life and have many babies.
DAY 14 – Not sad enough. At the end of their long happy life together, an underlying residual effect of the drug turns Juliet into a zombie. Now Romeo has his brains eaten.
DAY 15 – That’s too outlandish. Romeo gets to the tomb. Paris is there. He thinks Juliet is dead and mourns her. Romeo makes a move to stab Paris. Paris, positioned just in front of Juliet, dodges to one side to avoid the oncoming sword. At that moment, Juliet sits up, stretches and yawns and says, “Oh wow, I can’t believe I slept that long! Oh hey Romeo! ACK! Why did you stab me?”
DAY 16 – Romeo then stabs himself because he is distraught over stabbing Juliet by accident.
DAY 17 – OK I like the idea that the lovers kill themselves at the end, but this part where Romeo stabs Juliet by accident is ridiculous.
DAY 18 – Alright, check this out. Juliet is sleeping in her tomb. Romeo goes to see her, unaware that she is sleeping, he thinks she is actually dead. He confronts Paris, kills him, then distraught over Juliet’s apparent death, drinks poison. Juliet wakes up, sees Romeo dead, gets so upset that she stabs herself with a dagger. Cut. Print.
DAY 19 – It still needs a little flourish at the end. Howsabout this? The Prince and represenatives of the families come to the tomb, see all the bodies, and says, “You know guys, this is some ridiculous bullshit. Y’all f’d up royally with this one.” The End.
DAY 20 – I’ve got it! The Prince says, “For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo.” Done! Time for chili cheese fries!”
Yes, readers. Those are the exact, unaltered entries in Shakespeare’s personal notebook. I am surprised as you are that they had chili cheese fries in his day.
OK, so maybe I made this whole thing up. The point is that sometimes writers get so bogged down in criticizing themselves that they never write anything. Meanwhile, those who actually begin the writing with lesser ideas in place eventually find a way to rework those ideas and build them into something better.
So to all you NanoWriMo Participants out there, good luck! And as a shameless plug for this writer’s work: check out bookshelfbattle.com and follow @bookshelfbattle on twitter!
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