November 1, 2016
For many years I've thought about participating in NaNoWriMo.
Most years I play along with National Novel Writing Month by writing each day.
I wrote daily for many years before NaNo existed but NaNo was different. It wasn't just that you were writing each day. It was that you were working on climbing a mountain by taking manageable steps.
We can all write a little more than a thousand words a day.
Do that every day for a month and you've written fifty thousand words. That's enough for a first draft of a novel.
I was the first editor at the Pragmatic Programmers other than Dave or Andy. One year I encouraged our authors and potential authors to play along with NaNoWriMo but write their technical book.
Each day I wrote a blog post encouraging them to write and giving these authors something to think about while they were writing. I was trying to launch another label for the Prags and wanted my potential writers to have something to shoot for and a community to write with.
I repeated the exercise the following year.
The label didn't succeed, and I left the Prags, but each November I'm drawn to a big writing project. One where I take small steps each day and look back at the finished draft.
Earlier this year I planned on participating this year.
I had a lot of business booked and figured I could afford to take time off of everything but conferences and traveling with Kim and work on that novel.
I'd always wanted to try writing a mystery.
My friend Chuck bravely took time off of work to write a mystery. It was always his dream. He wrote it and rewrote it and rewrote it. He printed it out and sent me bound copies of draft after draft.
He didn't return to work after that first book. He repeated the process five more times. He wrote six mysteries. He poured his heart into them.
Eventually he returned to work.
Not long after he died of a brain tumor.
The time he spent writing cost him and his wife a lot of money. But it gave him so much.
The books were good but they just didn't catch anyone's attention. A fiction editor could have tightened them and helped shape them. They didn't need much.
Few books are finished when the author is done with it. A good editor or agent can add so much to a book - mainly by removing things.
One of Kim's boss's wrote a novel. She typed it for him. It wasn't part of her job but she just loved the two Bobs she worked for and was happy to do it.
It was a coming of age book that was largely autobiographical. It included fictionalized people Bob and Kim worked with and they weren't well disguised.
Bob's protagonist was also a female.
There were many elements of the book that were very good, but it never rang true.
Again, perhaps an editor could have fixed it.
That experience kept me from trying to write fiction.
I read a ton of mysteries but I just didn't think my fiction would ring true.
I was going to try it anyway this year but then Kim was killed in August.
I don't have the energy to write a book like that and I don't have Kim to help shape it and give me a truthful evaluation. If I show it to people now they'll just be nice to me. Nice won't help me write a better book.
Since Kim died I've tried to get back to updating my Swift book. In the last couple of weeks I've gotten a decent start. I just got the first chapter back from my editor (my sister Jill).
So that's what I'm going to do this month.
NaNo No - Though
National Novel, no not that, though I will work on a book every day of the month.
I will spend the month working on updating my book "A Swift Kickstart".
We'll see how it goes.