The National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge begins in 2 days! I’m excited, and the tiniest bit nervous. I’ve been working the last few weeks on outline after slightly-improved outline, and fortunately, the impending deadline of November 1st has given me a sense of urgency and a stopping point for endless refinements. I’m itching to start writing, so I think that means I’m ready.
Over the last month or so I’ve discovered some things about my writing process that have made me grateful I had time to prep, but not too much time to prep. First, I think it could potentially be tough to transition from outlining to writing. I feel good about the iterative process my outlines have gone through; it feels like the quality of the story has improved (in my humble opinion) dramatically since the first draft. I can see how it would be tempting to keep refining outlines in perpetuity, so a deadline is helpful.
Second, I threw my initial logistical plan for getting words on “paper” completely out the window a week ago. During the last month, I’ve fallen in love (I know, such mellow-drama) with the feeling of physically putting words on paper. Like, with a pen. Prior to this revelation last weekend, I would have never considered attempting to write the first draft of a novel on paper. The thought didn’t just sound silly and overly-romantic to me, it sounded downright ridiculous. I do a lot of writing for my day job, and I wouldn’t dream of moving that process to paper.
But creative writing feels altogether different to me. It’s art. And the physical experience of it has become unexpectedly important to me. My connection to the story feels deeper and more intense when I’m looking at my notebook, feeling the pen, feeling the words flow onto paper. Each letter feels unique. Typing is just a series of impersonal poking motions, and with the exception of slight variations in finger positioning, all letters and all words feel essentially the same. Not so when writing with a pen. I love the way it feels to write my main character’s name. Typing it just isn’t the same.
I’ll have to admit at this point the Engineer has earned the right to tell me “I told you so,” at least a bit. A while back, long before he suggested NaNoWriMo, he told me about listening to an interview with the author Neil Gaiman. He was very interested in Neil’s description of his writing process, especially that he wrote all of his first drafts with a fountain pen, in part, because it forced him to be much more selective with the words he chose. I totally dismissed this idea at the time, and the reason I gave was something really dumb and untrue like, I’m naturally economical with words so I don’t need that.
Last weekend I independently and with no outside influence whatsoever came up with the idea that I would write the first draft of my novel in a notebook like my Moleskin journal. In a completely unrelated turn of events, the Engineer had bought himself a beautiful teal Leuchtturm1917 journal that I had somehow co-opted noting that teal is my “power color” (as told to me in 2005 by a Starbucks barista who was apparently skilled in some form of metaphysical color theory). It was sitting on my desk, clearly “mine” at this point, just waiting for my navy Moleskin journal to complete its tour of duty. It became clear: I would write the first draft of my novel in the beautiful teal Leuchtturm gifted to me by the Engineer.
On Saturday night, we decided to listen to the Neil Gaiman interview he had been so interested in this summer. As we listened to Neil’s description of his writing process, I was feeling much more enthusiastic about the whole writing-on-paper thing. The interviewer asked what form of paper he used, was it a notebook? Neil Gaiman described how he arrived at his preferred choice before revealing the secret. He said he started with a Moleskin journal–I made a very sophisticated squealy noise and held up my own Moleskin journal and the Engineer smiled indulgently. Unfortunately, Neil noted, at some point Moleskin lowered the quality of their paper, so he had to give it up. Just wouldn’t do with a fountain pen. Then Neil, sort of deliciously and carefully, started describing the replacement he found which had lovely quality paper, and it was, well, it was German, he thought. I held my breath. What was the name??? “Leuchtturm1917,” he said. With two ‘T’s.
My eyes went wide and my mouth made an “o” and I had to pause the interview to freak out a bit. Neil Gaiman writes first drafts in Leuchtturm journals! I’m all for interpreting coincidence as a sign from the universe, so this was very meaningful to me. I have a Leuchtturm journal! It was given to me by the Engineer, who has been so supportive and instrumental in encouraging me to write. Not to mention–and this is important–it’s teal. My power color. My teal, gifted, Leuchtturm is positively guaranteed to contain my first best seller. All signs point to it.
So, obviously, that’s my plan. I went back in my journal and found a relatively dense and relatively neat page of writing and counted the words. 250-ish. My goal for NaNoWriMo is 50,000-ish words which I’ll know I’ve achieved if I fill 200-ish of the 251 pages in that very special journal.