January Novel Writing Month '02
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Saturday, January 19

When he read the e-mail, Sol burned with anger. He happened to be holding two cookies in his hand. He clenched his fist, breaking them into crumbs, which fell through his fingers to the carpet. "This is what will be done," he thought, "to the career of anyone who does not follow Sol Benjamin."

Posted at 1:04 PM


26,928 words. So, so tired. So, so far behind.

Posted at 1:20 AM


Friday, January 18

26,469 words. Falling behind again. Desperate progress may call for desperate measures.

Posted at 10:48 AM


Thursday, January 17

There's no pillow talk like wonk pillow talk!

Jon and Mariah are still talking about writing novels. Jon tells her about his idea for an open-source, object-oriented novel.

"But being open source," I said, "you'd have to be careful to see that nobody wrote an infinite loop. There's always some clown who will write a recursive function, something that called itself. I can see it now:

               sub go_meta {


"I see what you�re saying," she said. "Like, somebody could write an entire meta chapter, in which characters talk about a novel that goes meta by having a chapter -- the 'obligatory meta' chapter, if you will -- in which characters talk about a novel going meta. And on and on. Eventually the book would crash, and the reader would have to do a brain reboot."

"That would be so incredibly dumb, but you�re right: Some hack out there would try to do it just to amuse himself. It's sad what people will do for a cheap laugh, and the less they know about what they�re talking about, the sadder it is."

Posted at 10:39 AM


I loved it when she talked in Perl.

Posted at 9:46 AM


Wednesday, January 16

25,424 words. Almost back on schedule.

Posted at 11:51 PM


Chapter 9, "ObMeta," is the chapter I'm most excited about, which is why, like a child licking the frosting off all the cupcakes, I've skipped ahead to write it.

In this chapter, Jon and Mariah are in bed talking about, of all things, writing a novel.

"Once the dust clears, someone should dramatize this whole dot-com spectacle."

"The business pages haven't been dramatic enough for you?"

"They've been plenty dramatic for me. But something monumental is going on. It will take a novelist to put it all in context so future generations know exactly what happened around the fall of 1999. The problem is, anyone close enough to the pulse of Silicon Valley to know what�s going on is, well, too busy being close to the pulse of Silicon Valley to write about it. That�s why tech journalism is so bad. Those who can hack it in the industry do -- and make $90,000 plus options doing so. Those who cannot go write for the San Jose Beacon-Call. I mean, 'Microserfs' was great, but do you suppose Coupland has ever written as much as a sort algorithm?"

"So what would your novel be like?"

"I'm thinking some sort of Horatio Alger meets Po Bronson. But then they meet Sinclair Lewis and T.C. Boyle. The four of them in turn bump into Mark Twain. Before I know it, 30 literary heavyweights have met and have crowded me out the door. All I know for sure is that I'd probably contrive some way to say to the reader: 'Hey, I'm sorry this novel is so bad. I don't do this for a living. Quite frankly, I don't know what I'm doing.'"

I paused.

"Great. Now I've brought Dave Eggers into the mix."

�Dork," she said, kicking me in the shin.

"Exactly," I said, pulling my arms out from under the covers so that I could properly wag my hands in the air as I spoke. "But seriously: I could see myself, years from now, finally figuring out what all this means, but by then would I remember enough of the, I don�t know, the zeitgeist to convey it adequately? Will anyone?�

"I think you could," she said.

"Yes, well, you are too kind for your own good," I said, kissing her on the forehead. "My problem is, they say 'Write what you know,' right? Well what the hell do I know? I know enough about code to fake it. I know the AP stylebook. I know all the two-letter words accepted in Scrabble. That's about it. Try making a novel out of that. 'KA EL ME ID MA EL'?"

"Oh shut up. You know a lot more than that."

"What do I know?"

"You know, I don't know, you know stuff. OK, you know how to use words like 'zeitgeist.' As far as I can tell, you even use them correctly. You can't say that about a lot of the coders here. And my god, you just made a 'Moby Dick' joke -- and a Scrabble joke." She rolled her eyes. "Oh, and you always know the answers on 'Jeopardy!' when we watch."

"Of course. Everyone does. The trick is knowing the questions."

"Stop that. You know what I mean. We've discussed your pedantics."


"Jon ..." She did not look amused.

"I know, I know," I said. "I'm sorry. I'm just worried that my novel, if I ever wrote it, would be nothing more than 'A Copy Editor's Lament: My Silicon Valley Story.'"

"Look, cut it out. You're a good writer. It's great that you�re not one to put on airs, but it's just as bad to put on anti-airs."

Or is it?

Posted at 9:42 PM


24,204 words, each one a painful reminder of why I'm paid to edit and design rather than to write.

Posted at 8:15 PM


Tuesday, January 15

A 4,197-word day -- more than the previous four days combined -- has put me at 22,741 words. Just one day behind schedule. Miracle of miracles!

Speaking of miracles, my hero has finally met a gal. I'm so happy for him. Her name's Mariah Vengo. She's an artist. It's a shame it's not going to work out for them. (Shhhh! They don't know that yet!)

This is how they meet. They're at a party, and she is telling him about the "freak foods" she enjoys. Their first encounter was when he corrected her use of the word "irony." She wittily rebuffed his correction, embarrassing him in the process. Now she's come to apologize.

"Freak pancakes, where you let three or four circles of batter bump into each other? They're the best."

"One another, you mean." More than two things bump into one another, never each other.


"Nothing. Nevermind."

"Right. So, I wanted to apologize for that little episode back there in the living room."

"Oh, that? That was nothing," I said. Lying.

"I was afraid I made you look bad in front of your friends."

"Oh, no, that was my mistake. I have a habit of correcting people. When I've had a drink, it can get out of hand."

"Well, you could have worse problems. I've had drunk guys hit on me and just plain hit me. You're the first one to edit me. It's fine."

I blushed.

Now, isn't that romantic?

You can say no.

Posted at 11:53 PM


Palo Alto was the new Anchorage. If ever there were a case of too few disk drives for too many floppies, this was it.

21,204 words. Back to two days behind schedule.

Posted at 7:21 PM


My protagonist is talking with his multimillionaire boss:

"That�s what this gold rush is all about," David said. "An entire professional set has found a giant wallet, full of money equally unexpected and undeserved. No one, to my knowledge, has turned it in to the market's lost-and-found desk. But you, I think you would.�

�What about you? You're here, too. What are you doing with the wallet?�

�Who do you think dropped it on the ground in the first place?"

I have no idea what all that is supposed to mean. Who's coming up with this nonsense, anyhow?

Posted at 10:34 AM


The plan for today: Write, write, write, go to gym, write, write, buy groceries, write, write, write, watch "Real World Chicago," write some more. I'd like to be at 25,000 words by the end of the day. Considering that I'm about 6,000 words away, is this even possible? Well, of course. Anything is possible. Is this likely? Not a chance.

But now, I sleep. No, wait, I can't afford to sleep. Instead, I shall go do research for my character's dream sequence.

Posted at 12:38 AM


Monday, January 14

17,893 words. Still three days behind schedule. Fellow JaNoWriMoFo Levi reports he's 30,255 words in. Astounding.

Today, the Saturday of my week, should be my most productive. A lack of obligation makes large swaths of time available to me, but the more time at my disposal, the more easily I am distracted. I waste time doing things like reading weblogs, alphabetizing CDs and making toast.

Now, for example, I am hungry for eggs, so instead of writing and getting past the day's word quota, I am going to fry some eggs.

Goo goo g'joob, I'm a jibbering goob.

Posted at 3:08 PM


I didn't say I wasn't a stupid kid. I said I was a righteous kid. Stupidity and correctness are not mutually exclusive, and occasionally they are one and the same. It would take me 19 years to figure that out.

That's an excerpt, not a confession. Mostly.

Posted at 12:58 AM


Sunday, January 13

Three days.

Posted at 6:32 PM