The immovable lifestyle sees 40 anos in the spyglass

Internets,

First, I apologize for the slow week in blogging.  It has been brisk in the life department.  Generally all good things, but too many all at once.  I am told it will slow down sometime in the new year, so I am going swim up-stream.

Second,  I would like to wish the NaNation out there good luck.  If I do my math right you should be somewhere around, (gets calculator) 19 thousand words.  Some of you are now grinning, others are hyperventilating.  Nanowrimo chatter is everywhere and I would like to offer my two cents. In full disclosure, I am a past Nano participant and my one finished novel is thanks to Nano getting me going.  I am also not doing Nano this go round because I am still editing that manuscript.  I am also trying to do focus on short fiction as I feel I am learning more from writing under 7k words and editing it than going for the epic.  With that in mind, here we go.

I have previous spoken about how I got going in my writing and this blog is expressly to talk about that experience and things that influence it.  I talked about Dave Wolverton’s “Write that Novel” two-day seminar being the site of a minor epiphany for me.  That epiphany was a sudden stark realization, but also an ongoing slow burn.  While I was there in mid October Dave asked me, “Bane, (because that is one of my nicknames) have you considered coming to my Nanowrimo Death Camp?”

I looked confused, I am sure, and asked what the hell it was.  Dave explained what Nanowrimo was.  Yes, I am that clueless.  I looked at my wife (loving, supportive, tolerant wife) and made puppy dog eyes.  On the drive home from Dallas we worked out the details of how I might take a week’s vacation to go out to St. George, Utah for the writing camp.  At that moment something happened, in that writing became real.  I started plotting and outlining furiously that I might actually have a story to work on while I was there.  The next two weeks I spent hours a night pulling together my materials and I cheated, I started writing some.  So, this perhaps invalidates my Nano cred, but I will get there.

During this process my very good friend Beth took a serious interest in helping me.  Beth is a fellow traveler in the “Horrors of the Literary lifestyle” and became a key participant in my process.  She was incredibly supportive because she believes in being a writer and because she wanted to see me reach my goal.  I think I must have been terribly amusing, with my serious and portentous omens of “Published or Bust!” Of course, I am no less serious about it now or we would not be sitting here together.  When November arrived I kissed the kids and the wife goodbye for a week and hopped a plane to Las Vegas.  I wrote furiously anytime I could and when I was not writing I was thinking, telling and retelling myself my story.  When I set foot in the hotel to meet the Death Camp group I was probably close to a Apollonian fervor of writing intensity and twenty – five thousand words of story.  I am lucky in that I am one of those logorrheic people who can spew forth text it seems.

The format was morning lectures, followed by lunch and one on one critiques.  in the afternoon we might go for a hike or even a movie for discussion later. At all other times we were writing.  Over the course of that week I hammered out another fifteen thousand words.  I felt like a man possessed and I have since.  Even now a year later I have realized that period was crucial. I started the process of changing my thinking, and teaching myself how to write.  Channels that had been laid in my mind by writing for role-playing games and work were eroded deeper into my psyche.  I have jokingly called it, the cult of writers, but there truth in the jest.  The time, the travel, the isolation, the intensity, all of this was teaching me something about myself and about what it would mean if I was going to a writer.

Some of you have perhaps been to Burning man or a related event. For those who have not there is ample literature available about it as well as a vast array of opinions.  I have many friends who are participants and I have done regional events.  There is a saying, “No Spectators.”  That statement encompasses a larger concept,  the Temporary Autonomous Zone or Taz.  These are spaces which are outside of normal structural control.  I think the  best writing workshops share this attribute. They are structured in terms of chronological events, but they remove you from self judgement, cultural bias, and fear as much as possible. In this case, Death Camp was that for me, I was free write.

About now, the five of you have continued reading this are wondering, “Is there a point?”

The answer is YES!

There  are naysayers about Nano. I am one of them, in a very specific way.  Nanowrimo is not going to give you a novel ready to query or submit to an editor.  Why is this the case?  Well I could refer you to go read a great book called, The Mythical Man Month, or I could just sum it up for you.  Two women can’t make a baby in 4 and a half months.  If you turn up  the heat a loaf of bread does not get done twice as fast.  The whole concept promulgated by many that Nano is going to give you a Novel in a month is a bit of misnomer.   But, before you get the torches and pitchforks and storm my castle, here is my point.

Nano is a Temporary Autonomous Zone and I am ALL for those of you doing it out there, because it allows you the freedom to write something.  If you are doing it now, at some level you are suppressing your internal critic.  You are telling the voice in you that says, “You are deluding yourself, you will never be published,” to go fuck itself.  You are sitting down and writing. The process is a huge contribution of your time and energies, which creates awareness of value.  That investment is your ante in the game, in my opinion, and it is totally worth it.  Just don’t think you will be Faulkner at the end of the month.

Will you have a novel?  Only in the most LOOSE sense of the definition.  What you will really have is half a novel and likely be a mess.  This is okay.  After I hit fifty thousand words and mid December I kept writing.  Then I hit one hundred thousand words somewhere in February I think and I kept writing.  I kept writing until May and one hundred and thirty-six thousand words.  Then did I have a novel?  Hell no, Now I had a really enormous mess. Now a year later I am still tinkering on that damn story, because it is my education process.  I have revised it, rewritten it, thought better of it and done it all over again at least twice. It is getting close to be done.  I will be able to say, this is my novel and hopefully feel proud of it.  Did Nano create it? Not exactly, but it sure as hell helped create an environment where I could try.

So am I am Nano naysayer? Yes,  a little, but I am also right here cheering for you guys because you are writing.  You are out there trying to create something and some of you will take that half a novel and flesh it out into something we read one day, and I can’t wait to see it! While I sit here slogging though revisions, (Curse you PNH, how could I be so blind to the consequences of the change?) I am thinking of you.  Will I do Nano again?  I don’t know.  The Pros seem to live it, every month, churning out that kind of page count because that is what they do.  So I guess I will, but I might do it in February instead, when it is not so nice outside.  For now it is revisions and edits, query letters and short stories.

I will miss you all at the Bier Garten this fall, but shine on you crazy Nanos!

– Seamus

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4 Responses to The immovable lifestyle sees 40 anos in the spyglass

  1. mirandasuri says:

    Funny, I just blogged on this topic today as well. We are, in large part, in agreement. It does seem a shame that in order to ‘market’ NaNo the organizers encourage the idea that 1 month + 50K words = a novel. But, I’m in total agreement that devoting yourself to a month of writing with abandon can never be wrong. Write on!

    • seamusbayne says:

      While my blog is just a junior writers own experiences I felt it was important to have my say on the topic. I am glad we are in agreement. Sadly this is the internet and there are going to be a lot of opinions out here. People are wrong out here and others have made it their life goal to let them know it. Personally I think Scalzi made a good point when he asked why the Pros are spending time bagging on Nano instead of writing. *grins*

      Also, from one blogger to another, enjoying your site and thinking. Glad to see I am not alone in a personal Custerian stand on talking the writing life.

      -S

  2. I cheated all three times I did it, since 50,000 isn’t a particularly fortuitous word count for a standalone novel.

    First time I used it to write the last volume of an EPIC as far as word-count anyway, second time to write two childrens books in a series where they were ranging around 30,000 words, and third to push through on a novel that kept hanging on me.

    That was great, but since I write slightly less than that every month of the year, I decided wearing myself out one month for the next three was probably not a sustainable practice.

    I like your TAZ phrase, it’s a concept that’s hard to find a good word for, that set-apart season that can only last for a short time but has reaching influence…

    ~ Bethany VPXI

  3. NicoleMD says:

    I will love NaNo forever and ever since it got me started writing. I always think of it as encouraging mass creativity rather than focusing on the end product. I’m a day behind on my word count, so I’d better go remedy that.

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