The NaNoWriMo Dialogues: Day One, “So Not Ready”

You: *panicked gulps of breath*

Me: You seem a little wibbly.

You: Oh, I’m wibbly. Super-wibbly. Wibbly to the max.

Me: *looks at calendar* Oh.

You: It’s National Novel Writing month.

Me: I see that. So: you’re writing a novel.

You: *vomits in a shoe*

Me: Definitely writing a novel. Also, that was my shoe.

You: Sorry.

Me: I didn’t like that shoe, anyway. A very hateful shoe. So, what’s the prob?

You: I just — I can’t — baaaaaah. *flails and points at the blank screen*

Me: The empty page.

You: *gasping*

Me: Tabula rasa. The blank page is some terrifying business.

You: It’s scaring the shitkittens right out of me.

Me: Understandably. The white page is all cliff, no bottom. It’s an endless pit. A snowy expanse without a single track to follow — and you’re thinking, if I go stomping my boots into this stuff I’m going to ruin it. It’s pristine, now. Untouched. Infinite possibility. The novel you’ve not written will always be more interesting and more vibrant than the one you do. That novel, the imaginary one, the eternal multiplicative one, is like a flawless fucking diamond.

You: It is. So I shouldn’t write it.

Me: *kicks your shin*

You: Jesus, ow.

Me: I guess it wasn’t the shoes that were hateful. It’s my feet. My violent, angry feet. Anyway: shut up about not writing the novel. What are you, an asshole?

You: Maybe. Probably. You said the unwritten novel was perfect.

Me: It is! In your mind. And you can always go and tell people, Oh, I’m writing a novel, and they’ll mmm and ohhh and they might even look impressed and if that’s all you want — the illusion of writing, the acknowledged potential of writing — hey, fuckin’ great, go on and keep pretending to write that novel. But for my mileage, I’d rather have an imperfect story penned in blood and coaldust than the gleaming perfect unicorn fart that lives inside my head.

You: Unicorn farts live inside your head?

Me: I hate you so bad right now.

You: That’s fair. Okay! Fine, I’ll write it, I’ll write it. You’ve convinced me. If only because I’m afraid you’ll kick me again.

Me: An entirely reasonable fear.

You: I have another fear: the fear I’m not good enough.

Me: Well, so what? What the fuck does ‘good enough’ even mean, anyway?

You: Good enough to get published. Or publish myself. Or be read. OR TO EVEN EXIST AT ALL.

Me: This is a first draft. Calm down, Twitchy McGee. May I suggest you care less about your work? You’re not saving babies, okay? And besides, good enough is a made-up metric. It’s not like there exists some kind of checklist. You’re not the one to judge. The audience will judge. And the only way they get to judge is if you’re willing to write this first draft and then edit the unmerciful sin out of it until it’s as good as you can possibly make it. You need to give them that chance, and that means letting go of this absurd horseshit notion of ‘good enough’ and instead grab hold of a far stronger and more applicable one: are you determined enough? Are you disciplined enough? Are you stubborn-as-a-motherfucker enough? That’s the metric. That’s your measure.

You: Okay. Okay! I can maybe do this. Do I need to write to market?

Me: The only market that matters is you. This is your book. Barf your heart onto the page.

You: Uh, ew. Also: that sounds easier said than done.

Me: It is. But it’s worth doing just the same. Listen: put one word after the other. Approximately 2000 of these a day. Throw in periods and commas where appropriate. Make sentences into paragraphs, paragraphs into chapters. Put characters on the page and in those chapters that interest you. Have them do things that scare you and delight you in equal measure. Commit them to plots and ideas that compel you and that have no easy answers. You’re the first audience. Entertain yourself. Challenge yourself. Let the story lead. Let your own desires for the story lead. Fuck what anybody else thinks right now. This isn’t for them. This is for you. This is a test. This is the Tough Mudder of novel-writing. This is mud and electric shocks and rabid badgers and Sarlacc pits and homeless doomsday preppers with knives made of glass and electrical tape —

You: You’ve never run the Tough Mudder, have you?

Me: No, but I’m pretty sure that visual is accurate.

You: It’s not.

Me: Shut up, Captain Howdy. Daddy’s talking. Listen: anybody can be a writer. No writer wants to admit that — because we want to feel like special precious spacemen who are breathing rarified space air with all our particular and peculiar writernaut training. But writing is a mechanical act. It’s just plonking words down onto a page. Storyteller is more than mechanical — that’s where the art really lives, in the storytelling, but even there, storytelling is an act that’s twisted around our DNA. Everybody tells stories. We tell stories about that guy we saw at the bank, about that car accident, that night at the High School Prom, that time we did that thing with the double-dildos at the shopping mall. Half our lives are remembered as and communicated via story. So this is just that: you utilizing the mechanical act of writing to impart the intuitive act of storytelling.

You: You make it sound so simple.

Me: It isn’t. And it is. And then it isn’t again. Nobody said you’re going to be a good writer. Or a paid or successful writer. But that’s not the point of National Novel Writing Month. It might become that, later on. But for now: it’s the act of doing. The act of commanding dreams down from the ether and staple-gunning them to the fabric of reality. This is you stomping your footprints across the artistic landscape.

You: *stares at the blank page again, vomits*

Me: At least you missed my shoe this time.

You: *wipes chin* I’M SO NOT READY

Me: No, you’re not. I’ve written way too many novels in the last two years alone and I’ve written screenplays and games and short stories and nope, I’m never really ready. Sometimes I think I am. Sometimes I realize I’m not. And it doesn’t matter. Because being really truly ready would ruin the fun. You know how you get ready? How you get good enough? By doing exactly this. By writing. By finishing. By editing. And by going back and doing it all again and again.

You: I’m going to do this.

Me: Yes, you are.

You: I’m going to write a book.

Me: And it will be one of the coolest, weirdest things you’ve ever done.

You: Awesome. I’m gonna go write now.

Me: You wanna make out first?

You: I just threw up.

Me: That’s okay. I brought Altoids.

You: Sure, okay.

Me: *hands you an Altoid*

46 responses to “The NaNoWriMo Dialogues: Day One, “So Not Ready””

  1. My husband brought me dinner just as I finished reading this. How am I going to eat it after all that vomiting? “Perfect unicorn farts”? OMG you have a way with words. May everyone doing nanowrimo find your dialogue motivating.

  2. Hah, I just watched The Exorcist for the first time last week, so that particular part made me bark a laugh that scared the dog.

    I’m going to wave this at people I know who are too pussy to commit to NaNoWriMo. Or any writing at all.

  3. I <3 you (with no disrespect to Frau Wendig, who I hope is feeling better). But sometimes I swear you have a spy satellite in my brain.

  4. I think all this talk of writing has gotten me excited enough to slow down the editing on my WIP and put down another character’s POV in my previous WIP that got derailed by my current WIP and OH MY GOD MAKE IT STOP I NEED MORE TIME

  5. Crap. My outline is still so rough. Crap. My world-building is still jaggedly hewn. Crap. My characters are still malformed monstrosities.

    I’ve cleared my weekend. Nothing to it but to start stumbling through it.


    *vomits in the other shoe*

  6. I have NaNo-induced acid indigestion, a spotty-at-best outline, and no ending (nor an idea of one) to my project. These “dialogs” take the pressure off with humor and unicorn farts, and I’m grateful. And a bit excited! Thanks, Chuck 🙂

  7. In my feeble attempt to “be on top of the game” this year, I typed notes, made a sort of outline, created a pretty little file in Scrivener, then miserably failed at uploading all to Dropbox. The monster ate everything. No backup (that was supposed to be the Dropbox’s J-O-B!!!). No precautionary printout of said document. And the I read your blog. Better, now. I have been here before, this barely prepared moment prior to beginning. And I don’t even feel nauseous but there are rumblings down below – might be a unicorn fart about to erupt. NaNoWriMo starts in less than two hours here.

  8. I’m so glad it’s not just me. I have abandoned all my other writing for this month to do this, because this has been the year of wandering in circles, procrastination and distraction. I signed up last night and started this morning. I have no idea what I’m writing about. But I need to just get words on the page and break the cycle I’ve been stuck in. At this point I don’t care how crap it turns out so long as I get it done. It can always be fixed later right?

  9. Well that just motivates me. I decided last week that this month I will write my first…well…anything. I will finally stop making excuses as to why I can’t write. It may end up looking like the psychotic ramblings of a 4th grade student on a pixie stix high (ultimately edited down to the sophisticated acid-fueled nonsense of a 10th grade dropout) but dammit…it’ll be something for my girlfriend to hang on the fridge next to my daughters drawing of a…ummm…I think it’s a slug beating a homeless man with a popcicle. Or it could be a cat. She’s 6, dammit, and I’m no art critic. I guess you have to start somewhere…

  10. I signed up for NaNoWriMo for the first time this year. I woke up this morning sick as a dog and it’s not pretty. Fuck it. I’m going to write 50,000 words of total crap this month, so no pressure for polished prose. What’s on paper I can fix in edit. What’s not on paper doesn’t help anyone.

  11. I am so sick of plotting and untangling and dreaming and storyboarding out this damned book that I just want to write the sonofabitch and have a draft I can edit already. So the “stubborn-as-a-motherfucker enough” metric? I totally win at that metric.

  12. Oh, God. I love you. During Nanocoaching duties I had people asking me how to stay motivated. I told them to dig deep. Honestly, I DON’T KNOW. You just do it. No matter what. I’m living proof of that. If I had a clue as to what motivated me to write a bunch of books during the cancer thing I would write down the secret, bottle the mojo and make a fortune. Just do it. Truer words…

  13. Mw aha ha ha haaargh. If I have any periods anywhere near my Nano experience it is doomed. However methinks you are not thinking cramps, mood swings, greasy hair and sudden attacks of unreasonable weeping when you say ‘period’. Phnark.

  14. Thank you for the smile and the chuckle and I wish I had read this day one instead of day 29 where I am teetering on 90198 of a self imposed 100000 with one day to go. I found your dialogue delightful.

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