NaNo 2010: A Pictorial History

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Howdy gang! 

Whew!  I am so glad to be done with NaNo.  It was a blast, and there were plenty of twists and turns throughout the month, so I'd thought I'd share them with you, picture-style!  Without further adieu:

NaNo 2010: A Pictorial History

In the early morning hours of November 1st, I was awake and ready to write.  Like many of you, I'd been mentally girding myself for weeks and was truly ready for battle.

It was still dark outside when I sat down in front of my laptop and waited for it to power up.  On your mark.  Get set.  Go! 

And he's off!  Finally, I was typing the first words of my new manuscript!  Within seconds, I was being carried along by a writing fervor.  I was more thrilled and excited than I had been in months.  This was the moment I'd been waiting for.  Writing this novel was my purpose, what I was always meant to do.

OK.  So that lasted twenty minutes or so.

But I was determined to persevere.  Gee whiz!  I had a whole month in front of me.  If I just paced myself, I'd do fine.  I just kept typing and by the end of that first day I'd made progress.

Day Two, I rose early again.  It had rained all night, but I was still a little surprised to find that our living room looking a lot like this:

(And yeah, that's a no-sh*tter.  It really did happen).  Living room flood: One. JP's wordcount: zero. 

I didn't get much done over the next few days as we feuded with our wonderful Italian landlord (What's that I smell? Sarcasm?) and tried to clean things up.  Still I worked at my laptop when I could, and by week's end I at least had something to show for my work.

Nano Week One complete?  CHECK!  Time to have a beer and celebrate!

At the beginning of Week Two, self doubt started to set in.  What's this novel really about again?

I was confused, despondent.  What the hell ever made me think I was capable of writing a novel?  I wasn't a real writer, was I?  Was it possible that I was trying to masquerade as somebody or something I wasn't?

On top of writing and doing my normal shift at work, we also needed to find a new place to live, preferably one that didn't flood when it rained.  We drove all over eastern Sicily looking for a suitable abode.  I liked this one, but my wife thought it was too big.

(Hot boiling oil was included in the rent, BTW).  Eventually two weeks hence we would find something promising, but in the meantime the days passed slowly and our super-busy schedule began to take it's toll.  Though my wordcount continued to rise, I often looked and felt like this guy.

Catatonic.  Lost.  Couch potato.  It was troubling.  My wife's repeated complaints about a host of issues fell on deaf ears.  I was making a huge sacrifice I reasoned, trying to practice my art.  I am, after all, unique.  I can't be expected to trouble over the trifling matters of mere mortals, like personal hygiene.  Right?  

Perhaps all this angst was simply part of my writing process, I thought.  Perhaps the schizophrenia of my life would translate itself into a moving story full of round characters in a beautiful and engaging setting.  Perhaps. 

In the middle of Week Two, since I was pantsing it, I realized I had a problem with my main character's motivation, but I solved that rather quickly.

And I also realized I was well behind on my wordcount.  Some of my CPs (and some of you perhaps) were probably laughing at me (for good reason!), so I knew I needed a swift kick in the hiney, and fast:

Amazingly, I made it to Day Fifteen, otherwise known as the halfway point, just shy of 25,000 words.  Obviously, I was doing something right.  So it was time to have a beer and celebrate!

All I had to do to succeed was keep going.  Sounded simple enough.  **Cue lightning strike, peel of thunder and ominous organ music.**  When I came back to my writing desk the next Monday, something had changed.  It took me a little while to figure out what.

I felt overwhelmed, out of sync.  Again, I found myself asking the question: what the hell was I doing trying to write fiction?  It looked like this--

--only with a laptop instead of get the picture.  For the first time, the specter of failure raised it's ugly, fur-covered head.  Dude, I was gonna bite it hardcore, wasn't I? 

During those first dark days of Week Three, I wanted to write, but struggled.  Really I did.  My Muse locked herself in the bathroom and wouldn't come out.  Something about an unwillingness to be seen in public or some such nonsense.  If I was going to fail, I could do it all by myself, she said.

In fact, after awhile I refused to even look at my laptop.  Sitting around with nothing but time on my hands (read procrastinating) I soon discovered something even more exciting than writing:

During this period, which is hazy and incomplete in my mind, my wife reported seeing a guy wandering around the house who answered to the name "JP" but looked like this:

So she suggested I take a break:

A few friends came to visit.  We had a very nice time, toured the countryside, saw the sites.  It was all very fun in an I'm-ignoring-what's-really-important sorta way.  My mood brightened and writing a novel seemed possible again.  I was reassured. 

Still, by the time Thanksgiving hit, too many days of zero wordcount had taken its toll.  The damage was done and I faced a pretty bleak truth: maybe I wasn't gonna finish this thing.

No seriously.  I. Was. N't. Gon. Na. Fin. Ish. 

Crap.  Only one thing left to do.

Almost all my CPs had crossed the 50k finish line already, and that was seriously cool.  Each one of them (Anna--I can add you too if you aren't worried 'bout anonymity :D) had shared pieces of their novels with me, and I was inspired and envious at the same time.  I was happy for them (of course!) but angry with myself for being the only loser who wasn't gonna finish.

There's always one, isn't there?

So, by the by, I awoke on Saturday, November 27th (DAY 27) looking at the business end of nearly 25,000 unwritten words.  WTF?  In the words of one of my favorite Police songs: "Something somewhere has to break."

I took my pose in front of my keyboard.

I looked around and found my glasses...

...and I just started typing.  Didn't matter too much if the spelling was accurate or the tense was right.  I had one solitary job to do: get words on the page.  By lunchtime, I was on a roll.  I realized, if I stood a chance in hell of finishing, a few things needed to change.

By dinnertime, I was on a mission.

I was in a big hurry, and I wasn't letting anything get in my way.

By the next day, I knew I needed to kick this novel's ass, leave everything out there on the playing field, give it hell, don't take no for an answer, and a whole list of other really great cliches.

Of course, adding a bazooka to a scene was an interesting way to raise the tension level.  Whatever works, right?

With some last minute cheering and moral support from my CPs, and near-total life support at home from my wife, on Day Thirty at 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon, the impossible happened.

Wait for it.  Wait for it.  Somewhere, I can hear the Rocky theme playing.  Sing it with me: Na, na na na, na na na, na na na.  Na na, na na na, na na na, na na na na. Na na na na, na na, na na, Na Naaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!

AND. HE. COULD. GO. ALL. THE. WAY!!!!!!   :D  Needless to say, I was surprised and relieved and self-proud (being different from house-proud) and--did I mention I was relieved?  I was one happy cat.

And there's no way I ever would have done it alone.  Mucho thanks to my CPs and to all of you out there who were NaNo-ing too (and everyone else who was playing along at home) for being so inspirational and so supportive.

And Furnace Girl, you're a saint, one in a million.  Please don't forget that.

I learned a ton, and am happy as pie to be done.  Did that rhyme?  Anyhoo, what about you?  Any fun or interesting NaNo stories to share?

Thanks for reading and being a part of this here little thing called my writing life.  We should get back to our regularly scheduled blogging here in short order.  Thanks for stopping by, and don't forget to stay groovy!

11 bolts from the blue:

Pam Harris said...

LOL--this was awesome! :)

Anastasia V. Pergakis said...

This is great! I love the added pictures to the story here. I wrote a NaNo poem for my experience in the theme of "Twas the night before Christmas" if you want to check that out. I struggled with NaNo also this year and made it in the nick of time thanks to two 10K in a day writing sprints!! Congrats on making it too - at the last minute even!


Summer said...

You are so awesome. And these pictures were the best. Seriously making me giggle over here, and it takes a lot to make me literally L-O-L.

You're such a beast! I could never have written 25k in 3 days! Nevarrrr!!! I would have cheated first. Wait! Did I say that out loud??

Lola Sharp said...

Dude, this was hilarious! I totes stole a couple images from you: the goldfish with the strapped-on fin. AND, of course, the camel-toed fat Elvis.
(Ew. His 'junk'/'package' and the rest of him all stuffed into that white sausage casing...yeah. It defies description. It's a case of a picture speaking a thousand heinous words. Except, there may be a little vomit in my mouth.)

CONGRATS, JP. I'm thrilled to be one of your CPs. Trust me, you are far more talented than you give yourself credit for. And, you know I'm brutally honest. (Love is Blind is beautiful and on his sidebar...go read it and you'll see what I mean.) And you give EXCELLENT critique. Some of the best I've ever seen. So there.

Now, get back to writing Daisy. I am 100% positive you have the makings of a gifted novelist. (ask Summer...I would NOT say that if I didn't firmly believe it.)

Lola Sharp said...

Oh, I agree with Summer...I couldn't have done that high of a word count that fast either...and I can go all ninja on some word count ass, as you know. But not like that. *bows down in awe*

Valerie Geary said...

Hehehe...that was amazing! So funny! And Congrats to you for breaking through that finish line!

Jon Paul said...

Pam--Thanks a million!

Anastasia--I'll have to head over and take a look. Thanks for stopping in.

Summer--I had no clue I could do that either! :P Fear of failure is a huge motivator for me and I hate to admit it, but I actually considered cheating at one point too. I came this close: *holds up a piece of paper* So it felt good to finish for real, and in time.

Lola--Wow! What can I say? *blushes* I know it sounds like such a common platitude, but I really couldn't have done it without you guys cheering me on. In fact, that night you sent that inspirational email, I'd already decided to quit for the evening. After I read your note, I went back and bagged another 3,000 words before bedtime. So thank you--all of you guys!--truly.

Valerie--Thanks! It felt pretty d*** good!

Thank you friends for stopping by and being so cool! Have a great weekend!

Claire Dawn said...

13,800 words on day 30 to finish at 11.52 pm. I was sure I wasn't going to make it this year.

Jon Paul said...

Awesome, Claire!

And it felt great, didn't it?!? I remember noticing your stats on Day 29 I think it was and being like: I hope Claire makes it, so Congrats on pulling it off! :D

Katie Anderson said...

Aside from the flooding part and the Sicily part.... I can sympathise with much of your NaNo experience. I'm so glad I did it again this year, but also so glad it's over. Phew!

Jon Paul said...

You and me both Katie! Thanks for stopping by!

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