50,000 words, or 50K if you prefer.
It’s November, so odds are you may find me slogging away at a computer somewhere attempting to churn out a massive amount of words on a possible novel. For those unfamilar to the annual rite, or possibly write in this case, November is National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for short.
The goal, aside from selling lots of merchandise to would-be novelists, is for writers to craft 50,000 words during the month.
If that number sound like a lot to you, it is.
This column typically falls between 850 to 1,200 words, although Oliver and Ian both say I tend to write long. This is funny, because during my career I’ve usually been quite capable of hitting a word count without going too far over.
To hit the number, writers need to churn right at 1,700 words a day for 30 consecutive days. What do you get if you complete this seemingly Herculean task, you may ask? A printed certificate saying that you won NaNoWriMo, some discounts on various novel services and the ability to brag to all of your friends who then promptly ask what the heck is NaNoWriMo is the grand prize.
I attempted the word barrage a few years back and failed. After about three days, I threw my hands in the air and called it quits.
Three years ago, I made a point to tackle NaNo again. But this time was different. I decided not to go back and edit my words but to throw them down on the page and keep going. Inspiration came from everywhere. So much so that without meaning to, I churned about 110,000 words on a novel before November started.
I had somehow written a book. But my goal was to win NaNo, so I started another one and managed to knock out 60,000+ words during November. I kept going and finished that book as well.
I could bore you with a bunch of excuses and details, but as you can guess neither of those works has been published. I’m still reworking the original in hopes I can salvage it into something resembling a good story.
The issue at hand was after knocking out two novels and more than 225,000 words, I was beyond burned out. I didn’t touch either story for a few months.
Last year, I decided not to do NaNo only to have a huge wave of guilt wash over me. So, I began writing without an outline and only a vague notion of what my book would be. Even with a trip to Florida during Thanksgiving week, I managed to hit the 50,000-word mark.
And you can probably guess, I haven’t done anything with that story either. It’s not bad, but has far too many flaws at the moment to warrant spending time to attempt to fix it.
You would think I have learned my lesson by now, but no. If you are reading this in November then you can place a bet that I’m in the middle of this year’s NaNo trying my best to hit that magical number.
Maybe it’s because, I’m dense or don’t like to give up. I’ve said for far too many years to count that I’m going to write a book. Turns out I’ve written at least one, but just finishing a manuscript doesn’t mean it’s over.
My wife likes to point out when I begin feeling sorry for myself, that I haven’t wasted my time writing thousands upon thousands of words for books that may never see the light of day. She tells me that it’s all practice.
The notion is funny because I don’t often let my failings get the better of me. I’m great at the game show Jeopardy and even was halfway decent in both high school and college at quiz bowl or academic bowl or whatever you want to call it.
So much so, that numerous family members implored me to try out for this show. I did, and the reason you’ve never seen me conversing with Alex Trebek on the show is that I’m 0 for 9 on those tryouts. Whether it was the 10-question in person test, the 100 question in person test or the 100 question online test, I haven’t been good enough to qualify for the next round.
I’ve often said if I could just get on the buzzers, I’ll be fine. However, I haven’t gotten the chance. But I keep trying and maybe one day I’ll be good enough to get the call.
And don’t get me started on my want to go on reality shows. I would love to be a contestant on Survivor or the Amazing Race. Having to miss a lot of work would be a problem. I’ve interviewed people who’ve been on Survivor, and I think I could do it.
But for some reason I’ve never gotten up enough nerve to make a video and send it in for either show.
I wrote in this space a while back that I was going to run a marathon. I lied. Actually I didn’t lie and had all the intentions until life and illness got in the way. It hasn’t stopped me from running, and I’m still churning along. I even paid for an entry into one last year, but couldn’t run it. Maybe one day.
And don’t get me started on the lottery. I pass by the sign showing the jackpot every day and when the numbers get large I talk about playing it. My youngest daughter often mocks me, because I rarely play. Of course, when I do my numbers don’t come up. I guess if they did I might not be writing this column any more.
So as I look over all of these things maybe winning NaNo isn’t so bad. Because it doesn’t seem I’m winning at any of the other things I do or plan to do either.
But just like the lottery, running, my quest to reach Jeopardy and be on reality television, I can’t get to the goal if I don’t try. So, the outline for a fantasy/sci-fi work loosely based on my teenage years in and around Rome that’s been percolating in my head for quite a while gets it’s time to shine this November.
And maybe this time the words and the story will stick and I can say I won NaNno, managed to finish a book and got the book out into the open. If not, maybe Alex Trebek could come calling one day.
*The views expressed in this column are those of the writer, and do not represent the opinions of V3 Magazine.