A Possibility of Something Wonderful

I have never seen the point of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I always figured that those who wanted to write wrote and those who didn’t write didn’t really want to. I used to be in the first category, and gradually slipped into the second. After the past couple of years of editing, promoting my books, and blogging, I lost the habit of novel writing. Apparently, I don’t really want to write the books I want to write, otherwise I would have been writing them.

Thinking that perhaps there is a book I want to write that I don’t know I want to write, I signed up for NaNo. The theory is that if you churn out the words without worrying about what you are writing, perhaps “you’ll start surprising yourself with a great bit of dialogue here and an ingenious plot twist there. Characters will start doing things you never expected, taking the story places you’d never imagined. There will be much execrable prose, yes. But amidst the crap, there will be beauty. A lot of it.” At least that’s what the NaNo people say.

I’ve always been a slow writer — never been able to write 1,000 words in a day let alone the 1,670 words I’ll need to write to achieve my goal. The last time I tried writing for word count rather than content, I talked to my hero but didn’t add a single word to my poor work-in-pause. (see Pat Bertram Introduces Chip, the Hero of Her Work-in-Pause, a Whimsically Ironic Apocalyptic Novel (Part I) and Pat Bertram Introduces Chip, the Hero of her Work-in-Pause, a Whimsically Ironic Apocalyptic Novel (Part II))

I won’t be adding to an existing book this time. (The above mentioned WIP is still paused.) I’ll be trying to write from scratch, following any idea no matter how silly, since there won’t be time to think of alternatives. The way I figure, I haven’t a thing to lose since I haven’t been writing anyway. At the very least, by doing NaNo, I will get into the habit of writing again. I’ll probably have fodder for several blog posts. But possibly, just possibly, I’ll come up with something wonderful.


Pat Bertram is the author of More Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fire,  and Daughter Am I.


Filed under blogging, Pat Bertram, writing

8 responses to “A Possibility of Something Wonderful

  1. It is the bane, Pat, of the 21st century novelist’s life.

    We are being asked to do more and more in terms of marketing and promotion. Even the major publishing houses expect more for their investment. While review copies are being turned down based on the attractiveness of the author’s image on the back cover.

    Personally, I’d rather write. Marketing is not my strength. But it is a necessity if I hope to leave a greater literary legacy behind, and I’m running out of years to make that happen.

    Raymond Chandler wrote: “Everything a writer learns about the art or craft of fiction takes just a little away from his need or desire to write at all. In the end he knows all the tricks and has nothing to say.”

    Whenever I reach the midpoint of whatever novel on which I’m working, I start to fret over my next project—what am I going to write about next? How will I top this one (each new project is my best work to date). Something always comes to me. My current project was born of a short story, as was Backstop. But I fear Chandler may be right, and I shudder to consider when that might happen to me. But then, maybe then I’ll time to promote and market.

    I know I don’t do enough in terms of marketing my work, but I won’t sacrifice my first love, which is to write. If I could only meet someone who enjoyed and was good at marketing to mentor me—or marry me!—I’d be much better off.

    Until then, it’s a constant battle to balance the two. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it), my writing continues to hold the upper hand.

    • Ray Chandler sure had it right. I’ve spent years learning how to write, and yet that learning did take away the desire. Perhaps the desire to write was the desire to learn? Oddly enough, I do have something to say, or rather, I did. I wanted to write a book about a woman grieving — too many authors get it wrong — but once I had the story figured out, I found I no longer wanted to say it. If one knows the grief of losing a mate, there is nothing to tell them — they already understand. If one doesn’t know the grief of losing a mate, there is no way to make them understand. And why burden them with the truth? Let them keep the illusion of love that will last a lifetime.

      As for promotion (at least online promotion) — I do know how to do it, sort of. (People know me, they just don’t buy my books very often. Maybe it’s the same as with writing? Since they know me, they don’t need to buy my books to get to know me.) And I have enjoyed my time online. But, I am not writing. Well, that’s not true — I write blogs and participate in discussions — a fellow author once pointed out that we write more words to promote our books than are in the books themselves — but that is not novel writing.

      Best of luck on your books. If I ever figure out the secret to promotion (ie: selling lots of books) I’ll be sure to let you know.

      • I’ve been writing for eighteen years, Pat, and every time I sit down I learn something new, and I learn something new whenever I read a good novel, one that’s well-written and not just popular contemporary formula. But whether I’m writing an op-ed piece, a book or CD review, a sports article, a memoir or a novel, I feel I have something to say. If I didn’t, I would commence the piece. I’ve always been outspoken—which is a nice way of saying I’m opinionated—but that’s not to say I can’t be swayed to another view.

        I wrote a memoir a decade or so ago about watching my mother succumb to Parkinson’s disease and while you’re right, there likely isn’t anything I can tell a PD patient or family caregiver, sometimes just connecting with them, assuring them that they are not alone, that others understand their plight from firsthand experience, is enough. At least that’s been the feedback that piece brought me. I recall when my father died, my old boss never a said a word to me. You might say there is nothing he could’ve said to assuage my grief and you’d be right; but all anyone seeks in that situation is simple acknowledgement. Even if they don’t understand because they’ve not yet endure the loss of a parent, as simple “I’m sorry for your loss” is light years better than not saying a word.

        My fiction especially is a way for me to explore the human condition as well as myself and the craft of writing. I hope that continues to inspire me to write for a long time.

        As for the NanNo experience, it’s not something I wish to experience, although I had an ex-friend who did. She found it beneficial even if she did trash the piece. I know all too well of what I’m capable on any given day and I’m happy with 1,000 words or 3,000. On a working vacation I can turn out 10,000 words in a week. I wouldn’t enjoy working for quantity alone, rushing to meet a daily word count. I’m the sort of writer who needs to be reasonably happy with what I’ve written before I can move on. But good luck to you as you participate in the exercise.

        Perhaps at some point you’ll find your way back to the novel, Pat. Like anything, if you miss it enough, you’ll do so.

  2. Wanda

    Pat, I’m glad you’re going to do Nano. For the very reason that you’ve never done it and you tend to write slowly. This will stretch you a bit, bring new ways of thinking and writing, at least it did that for me. I write in fits and starts usually with huge gaps in between. Nano really challenged me to be more consistent so I’m going to try it again this year.

    I think your book on the truth behind your grief would be useful to so many people. Those who haven’t experienced the loss of a dearly loved one will learn something new but also perhaps gain some insight into those around them, ones who have lost a love. Learning how others experience the world is one of the best reasons for reading fiction. It stretches us, widens our perceptions and gives insight into things unthought of in our experience. I hope you rethink the idea of writing a novel about one woman’s experience of grief. I believe your perspective would be valuable.

    See you in the Nano trenches!

  3. We did a mini Nano in February at our writers’ group. November’s just such a busy month, with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up.

    I’m sure you’ll write something wonderful, and I’ll eagerly await the chance to read it.

  4. I’d far rather write than do anything else. I have to force myself to do other things — frustrating but true.

    I’ve enjoyed NaNoWriMo and have written three good books while participating. The first and third, I hope to publish one day. The second, not so much. Not that it isn’t a good book, but because it didn’t turn out the way I intended at all!

    I’m not a “turn off the editing button” kind of writer. I have to edit as I go or I will be completely mad by the time I’m done. I had to do a lot of editing and preempting with “Deserted”, my second NaNo novel. The characters kept trying to get ahead of me & I simply couldn’t have it. Had we done it their way, the book would have stalled–and it did for several days until I went back and set them on the proper course.

    Last year’s novel, “The Ninja Tattoo” is the one I’m most proud of. I really like how it came out. I hope one day I can convince Second Wind to publish it. =)

  5. christinehusom

    I’ve been curious about NaNo, but have never checked into it. I’m not sure what kind of a fir it would be. My writing time is limited, and then there is the whole marketing aspect, which could be very time-intensive.

    Although I am quite independent, I would love someone to take over some things for me for a while–clean my house, organize my photos and finances, book me a bunch of gigs, send out press releases, check out where the best book fairs are, where the best places are to interact on-line, tell me what to write about to attract readers to my blog posts.

    I am motivated to write for others. But how to get what I write in their hands is a hurdle.

    • So true about getting your writing into hands of readers. I wish I knew where the best places to interact on-line are. The obvious, twitter and facebook, are not working as well as they used to, probably because everyone is trying to promote something, if only themselves. Now that the first chapter of the Second Wind collaborative novel Rubicon Ranch is about to be posted (Monday, October 25, 2010 at http://rubiconranch.wordpress.com) I would like to find a site or sites where I can tell people about it. I know people will like the story — so many good authors are involved in the project — but people can’t like what they can’t find.

      Best of luck with finding all the extra hours you need in your days.

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