I had high hopes for December.
I had known it would not be a whole book, not a complete novel, that would emerge from under my fingers in the 30 days in November. Now I've written over 50,000 words in just 28 days, and it's turned out just that way.
It's even worse: there is no complete first chapter. There is no nice summary. There's not even a thread, nothing to help me organize the equivalent of over 150 pages of a book. There's just an almost unbelievable amount of text, as much as I've ever written in such a short time, and a gigantic fear of having to organize my own thoughts afterwards.
For 28 days I voluntarily submitted to the regime of NaNoWriMo to write at least 1,667 words every day to make this amount possible, and indeed: The miracle has happened. And, yes: I am proud. At least once I was that on day 28, when I was exhausted and happy that NaNoWriMo therefore officially made me the Winner has declared.
Now, after five days without the compulsion to produce quantity daily, something black is gnawing from within and hollowing out the pride. Something cries out to keep my fingers flying over the keyboard, to write at least something, and if I don't know how to organize this pile of notes, then at least write about what it was like to write.
This November, for the first time, I didn't think long and hard beforehand, then do a little research, only to be too tired at the end of the day to put anything down on paper. I did exactly the opposite. I put things on paper that I didn't know I would want to write until my characters needed that exact experience, wanted to tell about those exact experiences. Sometimes I just had to listen and write along. That was wonderful.
Not quite as wonderful is the faint suspicion that among the many scenes are also beautiful ones that will nevertheless never find their way into the book. The book, of which I now know halfway how it could end, but still have to find out when it actually begins. Because, no, I don't intend to bore you with endless flashbacks, and my main character won't retire to an analyst's couch in between during the plot, so that she can tell about her youth.
How much will I have to cut out?
I will also leave this question unanswered for a moment. Because first I would have to find a guardrail that tells me what belongs in and what does not. I'm hoping that's where James N. Frey is helping me right now, with his charming how-to tour through the history of dramatic theory, with the even more charming title: How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling. (Yes, yes, you can't get more American than that, but when the story is already set in New York...).
But that means, for all those who are already waiting for it: Sorry. There will be no book from me for Christmas. Not this year. And maybe not even the tiniest snippet of a scene that might not make it into the book after all.
But maybe it does.
(And if it is, it's here.)
Photo: Shriram Rajagopalan (under a creative commons license at Flickr.)