By a technicality

>> Sunday, November 30, 2008

Here's what I did: I wrote 50,000 words in the month of November. Which, technically and as far as NaNoWriMo's bean counter is concerned, means I'm a winner. See:

Here's what I didn't do: I didn't actually write a novel with a beginning and an end (oh, I have a ton of middle, so there's that). My hero is still alive, which I know is completely wrong. So is the villain, which is even wronger. (Why does Firefox's built-in checker even think "wronger" is a word?) The hero's horse is not alive, but Powder isn't dead, either, and I know that's wrong. (Trust me.) In fact, the hero and villain haven't even met each other yet--at least not in the pages of this monster (we do, however, have a mention of the villain previously having told his lackeys that he met the hero), although I have some idea that they're supposed to. And there are some holes in the who and the how and the where. (Why isn't something this book is necessarily concerned with, so no problems there.) There's an entire apocalypse that isn't quite fleshed out, and quite a bit of history and backstory, and various and sundry matters.

But here's what I did do: I have started to chip away the pieces of a great big block of mental marble that don't look like a 19th-century apocalypse. I've surprised myself with a few things that I thought were a problem and weren't. Despite having vast quantities of text that I left in with a strikethru font so they would count towards word total despite the fact they're false leads or just godawful, I have some sense of a book I don't hate yet.

And, maybe most important, I think I have the beginning of a book that's more than 50k words.

I don't feel like I won NaNoWriMo this year--I have 50,000 words (easily, and well before midnight, despite several weeks when I was quite behind), but unlike the past two years, when I had technically finished (although pretty lousy) novels, I don't have something that's anywhere near finished. In terms of that old joke about carving an elephant, I've chipped away enough that you can see the rough shape of an apocalypse but nothing like a finely-chiseled rendition of one.

But I like where things might be going.

I've also found Writer's Café (which I've mentioned here to be an enormous help--it's the reason I may be able to come up with an elephant, and the reason I have 50,000 words. There's something to be said for writing sequentially--you learn the story and characters develop organically. At the same time, however, what I've been able to do so far when I got stuck was to say, "Well, okay, I'll just go write this part over here and I'll tackle this awful scene later. And I've found some of the other tools in Writer's Café that I thought would be less useful to be made of awesome: the scrapbook and pinboard, for instance.

What I've done, then, actually, is I've started a novel. Which is something I've done before, actually: I have a bad children's novel stashed away (unlikely to be seen again before my death, I think) and two really awful NaNoWriMo entries. But this may be a good one. Maybe. Could be. Then again, I've said that before and ended up with a handful of grade-A pure horseshit.

Still, there you are.

Earlier in the month, a friend of mine managed through a series of complicated exchanges to gift me with a bottle of Crystal Head vodka; I'd planned on opening it with local friends and recording the results (something that the hectic Thanksgiving schedule didn't permit this past week), but it seems appropriate to crack it for a quasi-celebration: fifty thousand words down, one finished novel to go. A toast, also, not only to my vodka-procuring friend in the UCF, but also to the fellow UCFers who, at this time, have also won NaNoWriMo: Anne, Jeri and MWT, with an advance toast to Matt (who is in a different time zone and at 47,029 at this writing--so he damn well ought to be able to catch up!). And a further toast and apology to John, who somehow wasn't on my buddy list and who MWT points out was missed in the original version of this post! Congratulations, John, and mea culpa for initially leaving you out of the list. (And if I missed somebody else who somehow didn't end up on my buddies page, you can still leave an another angry comment and I apologize for being a total asshole!) Thanks also go out to those who were supportive during the last month--thank you, thank you very much. Also, along with the toast, this, because it seems so damn appropriate:

Happy NaNoWriMo, everybody, happy holidays and a good upcoming month of Solstice! And I, tired for the moment of the slavering hordes of undead and 19th century America, am going to watch the video again and raise a glass to distant friends before retiring with the cheesy goodness of a book club collection of James Bond novels. Good night, and good writing.

POSTSCRIPT: Janiece, this vodka is really, really good. I'm not much of a vodka drinker--at least not straight, on the rocks, which is how I'm drinking the toast; I am, of course, partial to White Russians, enjoy a good Bloody Mary, and have a thing for vanilla vodka and Coke (sometimes called a "Russian Immigrant"). But the Crystal Head is really, really smooth, and enjoyable straight.

Maybe it's the alien technology or the magical skull bottle. Who knows?

Thank you again--my initial thanks were for the thoughtfulness of the gift itself, but you deserve another thanks on behalf of the merits of the vodka. Gimmick bottle or no, this is a tasty draught. Another toast, the glass raised this time in the direction of distant Colorado. Thank you.

Now I'm going to play that video again while I sip the rest of this glass....


Janiece Murphy Sunday, November 30, 2008 at 10:42:00 PM EST  


Congratulations on your 50K mark, and I'm very glad the contents of the container measured up to the coolness of the exterior.


rbird Sunday, November 30, 2008 at 11:59:00 PM EST  

You write good and is cool and stuff. I wants to read that you wrote. (Congratulations bro!!!!)

MWT Monday, December 1, 2008 at 12:37:00 AM EST  

Woohoo! You did it! Congrats! :D

Also, you total asshole: *cough* John *cough*

MWT Monday, December 1, 2008 at 12:42:00 AM EST  

Also, it's not a technicality, it's a rule. ;)

The rules say it just has to be 50k toward the same story. It doesn't say that the story has to be finished, or that they have to be words you're planning to keep. So you win fair and square.

Jeri Monday, December 1, 2008 at 1:29:00 AM EST  

Awesome news, Eric! Way to go on making a start on your novel.

I too have large quantities of strikethrough in my novel. And large amounts of pure crap I have not yet struck through. And an ending still to write.

I agree w/ MWT - the rules are 50K on a new work. If the novel continues on from there that's just fine. You're a winner.

mattw Monday, December 1, 2008 at 9:12:00 AM EST  

Congratulations Eric!

I really only had 1,000 words to go as of Sunday morning, but I hadn't been online much over the weekend to update my word count.

Congratulations to everyone else who won too!

Kathy Monday, December 1, 2008 at 9:19:00 AM EST  

Very impressive! I tried and failed miserably at NaNoWriMo one year and haven't tried again since. You guys are in the arena--I'm just sitting up in the stands....

kimby Monday, December 1, 2008 at 9:43:00 AM EST  


And way to go on the 50K!

John the Scientist Monday, December 1, 2008 at 10:40:00 PM EST  

Congratulations. I hadn't looked at your stats since you were about 3K out.

And no blood, no foul*: I didn't swing by here to see the original post (finishing the novel, guests for Thanksgiving, and a sick kid), so if you'd just quietly slipped me in and deleted MWT's comment I would have been none the wiser. Although I did wonder why you didn't "friend" me back. :)

The software was rather wonky when I set everything up, though. ;-)

*My parents got me my first set of contact lenses because of a rather spectacular violation of that rule. :D

Eric Monday, December 1, 2008 at 11:04:00 PM EST  

I never got your friend invite, John, but there was a lot of wonkiness at the beginning of November--not sure if you went through the whole thing of having to friend people twice because a lot of people's buddy lists boiled into the aether when had to replace one or more servers (I believe that was the explanation they gave, at least).

And then most of the UCF NaNoWriMo discussion went to the back fence anyway....

I hope you didn't really feel slighted!

vince Tuesday, December 2, 2008 at 11:25:00 PM EST  

Completing 50,000 words in a month is awesome, even if they have flaws and aren't the full novel. So hats off to you!

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