Thursday, October 17, 2013

Novel (or play) in a month

Surely at this point, people familiar with the internet have heard of National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo apparently) where participants must write a 50,000 word novel in November.  A vastly more obscure website has claimed that November can also be play-writing month.  (This organization has far fewer goodies or support -- if you complete NaNoWriMo at the very least you get a printed version of your novel from Lulu.  On the other hand, they have a much better idea -- to set aside March as play-rewriting month!  I could definitely use a bit more structure and encouragement to rewrite the two plays that I did complete* but haven't done much of anything with.)

While on the one hand, I really would prefer to finish this novel (that I pull out of the drawer every five years or so), the rules of NaNoWriMo, such as they are, suggest that I would have to start from scratch -- just keeping the plot and characters but none of the dialogue.  Some of it surely does need to be trashed, but I have 7000+ words written, and it seems crazy talk to toss that aside for some artificial goal.**  Truly, it's not like anyone would know if I actually reused a fair bit of this material, though it would certainly violate the spirit of NaNoWriMo.  While I probably could live with myself, I don't think I will do that.  I think for me, I already have so many major work commitments in my life (and barely spend enough time with my family as it is) that these somewhat obsessive goals don't make much sense.  I need to find a more sustainable way and more reasonable goals to keep going.  It's not like I can't reach 50,000 words.  Given that my posts usually are in the 500 word range, and have been known to go beyond 2000 words, and that I am quickly closing in on my 150th post, I'd say at a conservative estimate I've written 75,000 in this blog (certainly book length if it was published in its entirety), not even counting the posts that are mostly just lists.  Most of this has come in the last 24 months.

Now as it happens, there is a play (presumably my last one) that has been begging (figuratively) to be written for some time.  (I actually was going to work on it last summer, but then pulled together a poetry anthology instead.)  I probably have one page written as a super-rough draft and I wouldn't feel so bad about slightly bending the rules for NaPlWriMo (and then signing up to do play rewrites in March).  I am not sure it is worth it, however.  First, there is the obviously large time commitment to generate roughly 75 pages of a draft of a play this November (and kissing any hope of getting through Proust in 2014 goodbye).  More to the point, I don't know if things improve once November actually kicks in and the moderators get serious, but at the moment there appear to be 10 participants and 900+ spambots that have totally taken over the forums.  The disparity in energy and the number of participants and frankly the professionalism between the two sites is huge.  I am not sure I can be bothered when the payoff seems so small (and entirely about internal satisfaction) and at the moment seems so corrupted by spam.  At the same time, this just does sound a bit like I am looking for excuses not to make a serious attempt to wrap up these projects (and I have plenty of legitimate excuses).  Perhaps what I need to do is get one of those programs that blanks out the internet and/or all computer games for hours on end so that you can really focus.  If that was in place for even an hour or two each evening, I think I could make some serious progress (whether I sign up for either challenge).  Of course, I would cut way back on the blog, but that seems like an acceptable trade-off.  I'm starting to feel diminishing returns from it, though I'll probably still put up a few reviews.

I mean this play that wants to be written has a really good idea at its core and I've already done what little research needed to be done (whereas I still have just a bit more background reseach to go on the novel).  I think if the NaPlWriMo site was a little better run I would give it a go, but it probably makes more sense for me just to do it my way and not worry about keeping to their structure.  At some point in the future (when the kids are grown), I might try the November novel (with some other storyline), but I think that I will definitely have to pass on this challenge for now...

* I may have mentioned that the first play was written under my own steam in probably 30 days or so.  The other one was stretched out longer and I did take a creative writing course to help add enough structure to my life to complete it.

** The other issue I have with NaNoWriMo is that it focuses so much more on process and getting that first draft out whereas if I was focusing on reusing/rewriting the first 7000 words, I would be in a totally different mindspace of editing and crafting the story, and I don't think I could jump back to first draft mode once I used up my initial stock of words.

Coldturkey and Focalfilter both seem pretty good, and I might test them later this week. I do need to make sure they don't kill my internet connection to work, however. Obviously, it is lame that one would need a program to force one to stick to one's goals, but no question in the middle of the night, willpower is low and it is just so easy to sneak back onto CNN and see just what is going on in the news.

I actually waste very little time on computer games (aside from an addiction to Mahjong tiles that has flared up after a year in remission) and almost none on TV. I never get around to watching the movies that I do own, which troubles me sometimes. It does make me wonder about rethinking my life (pace Rilke).

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