January Novel Writing Month '02
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Saturday, January 5

I continue to get bogged down in motivation and backstory. I can't take a character to the bathroom without first spending three grafs explaining exactly what she did to get there.

It's not pretty.

Posted at 7:21 PM


Tonight I came across a gag for my protagonist.

When he was nervous, he would see how fast he could count to 31 on one hand. He used binary, from thumb (2^0) to pinky (2^4) and all digits in between. A thumb equaled 00001, thus 1. An index finger equaled 00010, thus 2. Thumb plus index finger equaled 00011, thus 3. And on and on, until he waved his hand for 31. The geek's hand jive.

He was down to 9 seconds. He was nervous a lot.

Later, he will break up with his girlfriend. It will traumatize him more than her.

"Look at you. You act as if this were your first break-up. Exactly how many girlfriends have you had?"

Jon slowly extended his middle finger.

"What are you doing? Are you flipping me off?"

"No. I'm answering your question. In binary. The answer is four." He closed his hand, then raised it again, this time with his thumb sticking out. "You make five."

And, no, I don't care whether I am the only one this amuses.

Posted at 12:38 AM


Friday, January 4

Chapter 1 -- "Tie Goes to the Runner" -- is finally done. 6,866 words, all to introduce one character. Something tells me this pace won't continue. If it did, I'd be at 41,000 by the time I got to the seventh dwarf.

(No, there is not a dwarf in my novel. Yet.)

Posted at 2:15 PM


Thursday, January 3

5,333. However, I see that I've been posting excerpts, and from that I can only conclude that I've drunk far too much wine to continue. Therefore, I shall retire for the evening, ending the third day of January 495 words ahead of schedule.

Posted at 11:44 PM


Sign you are reading a novel written by someone who overestimates how much he knows about computer programming: He uses binary digits as a metaphor for a character's sense of right and wrong.

Such as:

It would be imprecise to say Jon suffered a binary obsessive disorder. That would imply suffering. In truth, he loved the way he was, loved how everything to him came in twos, loved how uncomfortable he got when things didn�t. Blacks and whites. Zeros and ones. Rights and wrongs.

Since junior high he�d been hacking computer code in his spare time, for a time in assembly code just to be as close to binary as possible. He liked how the computer never, ever gave the wrong answer. It was infallible. A bug was simply a matter of the wrong question being asked. He often wished people were the same way, but it was his experience that they were much more capable of untrustworthy output, no matter how pure the input.

No clue? No problem!

Posted at 11:32 PM


4,888 words. So far I have described my protagonist's job (a job he's quitting at the end of Chapter 1, if I ever finish the damn thing) and taken him to lunch. Tedium, it turns out, is a ready substitute for talent.

Posted at 10:53 AM


Wednesday, January 2

I'd expected a torrent. Instead, words are dripping out of me like lumpy gravy, except colder and with much less flavor.

Latest count: 3,207 words. I'm pleased with about 80 of them, but I think I finally have an opening I can live with.

These are the rules: Never be late. Never be long. Never be wrong. If you have to be one, be wrong, because the Pod will fix everything.

But not if you�re late, not if you�re long, and no fucking way if you're both.

"Call me Ishmael," it isn't, but what is these days?

Wonderful. Now I'm hungry for whale meat and gravy.

Posted at 11:53 PM


About two years ago, I got the following message on voice mail:

Hi, Luke. This is Greg Knauss. And on behalf of the entire Web community, we want you to start writing again. We were goofing around today -- the entire Web community -- and we kind of ran out of things to read. And so we went back and poked around Minnesota Stories and, dammit, start. That's an order. Further instructions will follow. This has been the entire Web community, saying, "Bye."

It moved me so much much that I've been writing and publishing ever since.

No, wait. I haven't. Still, it was a pretty neat message to get, and it was part of the inspiration for JaNoWriMo.

This morning I made a thrilling discovery: Greg is joining me this month. This is excellent news on at least two counts: 1. Greg is a good writer. 2. Greg is confident enough in his writing to post it. Truth is, the entire Web community has missed Greg much more than it has missed me. Thus, the JaNoWriMo-related dread with which I awoke this morning has become JaNoWriMo-related ecstacy.

And now, to the novel! I mean, to the kitchen! For hash browns and sausage! But then, to the novel!

Posted at 8:56 AM


Tuesday, January 1

Closing in on midnight, I'm only around 2,000 words. This is well short of where I'd hoped to be at this point. I'm finding that my first chapter is getting bogged down with the back story of a minor character who I don't foresee having much further presence in the story.

What kind of writer, you might ask, devotes so much to a minor character?

A very bad writer, that's who, but one who is extremely fond of the real person upon whom this character is based.

What kind of writer, you might ask, would pay tribute to a friend with bad writing?

A very, very bad writer, that's who!

Posted at 11:51 PM


1,211 words.

Posted at 6:10 PM


And we're off!

Jan. 1 got off to a later start than expected -- new years are like that -- so I'm a bit behind already. The plan for the rest of the day:

1. Write write write.
2. Go to gym. Think about what I'm going to write next.
3. Write write write write write. Write write write. Write. Write write. Write.

Posted at 1:20 PM


Monday, December 31

Less than 12 hours to go. Are you as excited as I am?

A few friends are joining me in a January writing project, although the names vary, including "ChiNoWriMo" and "a little extra writing in January." I am, however, the only one who has cheated to such a large degree, having mapped out much of the beginning and end. Indeed, I have on my desktop several files with names like "characters" and "plots and gags" and "possible chapter titles." It's plotted out. I just have to write it.

But having never written fiction before, I feel entitled. As a novelist, I am the golfer whose handicap is so great he gets to tee off from the ladies' tees.

I'm feeling a bit like Bill Walsh, whose great innovation with the 49ers was to script the game's first 15 plays. I'm like this in conversation. When I can script out my plays -- "Hey, how are you?" "Good, thanks. You?" "Just fine. Thanks." -- I do OK. But once any exchange turns to improvisation, I'm sunk and am liable to start mumbling. Ask about the Cubs when I'm expecting a weather question, two bits says I'll still answer "Feels like rain." Throw a curve ball by bringing up, say, politics, and I will verbally flail, calling "Line!" to whoever is nearby.

And so it is with JaNoWriMo: My first 15 plays are scripted out. After that, anything can happen. Expect fumbles.

Posted at 12:47 PM


Sunday, December 30

Calliope, Clio, Erato and Euterpe? Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Terpsichore, Thalia and Urania? Pikers, all. There is no muse mightier than a DoubleStuf Oreo.

Posted at 2:38 PM