FULL BLEED: TOMORROW IS NOW
I know. I've probably used that title before. But like an object that goes through a time loop and get zapped back a million years and then shows up in the present again, it is inevitably a different object altogether.
Since it's the first of November, you may know what I'm going to talk about. That being the reforging of this month into the time where you, yes, you become a creative powerhouse. Yowsah yowsah yowsah! Step right up and you too can become a Writer! The world will be your oyster! Your genius will be recognized and you will enter the pantheon, borne on the shoulders of your legions and readership.
That's right. It's National Novel Writing Month or whatever they choose to call themselves. Me? I'm going to be the fly in the ointment once again. I'm not only going to not believe the hype, I'm going to suggest that perhaps you don't, too. I'm all for you picking up pen and paper or chisel and stone or keyboard and flickering phosphor and exploring some spaces. We're always going to need a new voice. And remember, that voice is the only thing you really have to offer. All the stories have been told. All the takes have been took. What is left is for you to reformulate your observation and experience in words and phrases and maybe if you're persistent enough, into an entire short story.
Oh, you wanted to write a novel this month? Don't let me stop you. When I start on MIRROR WOLVES, probably at the beginning of the year, it'll be my tenth novel. I suspect the draft will take me around three, maybe four months. This is after however long I've spent on the outlining of it. At this point, the book only exists as a bunch of cards in a Scrivener file. They still need pruning and reshuffling. Then the plan needs to survive the writing process. But that's another entry or two.
I've been doing this awhile. Yeah, I took a very long break from 1996-2011 or so. But I've written ten books and a bunch of short stories and script pages and countless pages of notes that one day might become something on their own or just a line in something else. Not every idea can support its own weight, or you can't necessarily find the path into them, but maybe someone else will. So, yes, writing a novel from beginning to end (not counting editorial revisions -- my own revisions are pretty light because I outline fairly substantially) is something that takes maybe six to eight months for me. It's not all useful time, either. Yep. There's days I'm utterly not good at this job.
I do know people who can draft the better part of a novel in a month or even completely. I don't understand how they do it, either. I'm terrified by that. They've also been working at this for as long a time as me or more. My first novel took about six months of just drafting, but I was able to spend a lot of time on it at a work where I was horribly underutilized.
You will not finish a novel draft in a month. I will ask you not to try to, particularly if you're new at this. You will hate the process and may even hate yourself by the end of it. But then I won't pass out any anodyne promises such as "The world really wants your work out in it" and "Chase your dreams!". That's comfortcore. Don't fall for it.
If you choose this November as the month that you write a thing, then good for you. Keep it small and manageable. Most short story outlets, for instance, really want stories from 3500-5000 words. Start there. For the record, I wrote a handful of short stories only after I wrote a draft of a novel and that was not a good way to do it. Novels and short stories have different demands and requirements, yes. The basic process of writing isn't any different apart from those. Still, you want to finish a thing and then rewrite and move onto a new thing. It's good to finish things. Trying to finish a novel right off the bat is crazy talk.
Choose something you can stick with and see through. That's never as easy as it seems. Make something you want to see in the world. That's the only reward, sometimes. Maybe even a lot of the time. Maybe even all the time. As my friend Laird Barron has said "It's easier than ever to get published. But it's hard to get published meaningfully" and that's a paraphrase, go after me if I've mangled it. Look. I'm going to finish this essay and hit publish and boom. The work is out there.
I can do the same with a book. Boom. The work is out there. Will anyone read it? Will it matter? Will it make your career and change the world? You can point at any example and say that's what you're hoping for, but know that all those examples are unique, and the world and publishing processes that made those books into phenomena are gone now, if they ever were there. Bestsellers are rarely if ever accidents. Luck will grease the skids (stealing another Barron-ism) but without the work being loaded and ready to go, all the greased skids in the world won't matter. The book that you start to write this month will probably not break huge and make your career. Will you keep going?
It's not easy at all. Will you keep going?
Please, if you feel the call and can go go through with it, then start your book now. Personally, November is a crappy month for me to do so. I'm responsible for doing a lot of the holiday stuff in my household. Work winds down around this time of year, though I've still got a couple short stories to write up, though I ask myself why, after my last round of stories thudding quietly to the abyssal floor in the marketplace. Still, I've said I'm going to do it, if for nothing more than the practice.
Use this time wisely. And honestly, I'd start with just an hour a day of uninterrupted writing time. There is some truth to it being a discipline that needs to be exercised, the focus needed. And focus is a harder and harder thing to come by in this world.
Worry about the quality of the work. Worry about building up your voice. Worry about making the work unique to you. Then worry about finishing it. Then worry about everything else.
And know that it will take much, much longer than a month to make it happen.
For those of you who are interested, my old/recent novel BLACK TRACE is available on Amazon. It'll be three bucks until the end of the day today, that being the first of November. Right here. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09JFDCGZK
Good luck. Remember, it's not a sprint or a marathon, but something much much longer.