Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dear NaNoWriMo

I don't remember where I first heard about you.  I just know I wish it had never happened.  You've been both the best thing to happen to my writing since I found out people would read the idiotic letters I write to things that make me angry, and the worst thing to happen to my exercise regimen and free time. 

National Novel Writing Month seems like such a neat idea.  It's a month to stop making excuses and to get the novel out of my brain and onto paper, or the fake paper of a word processor.  I've been struggling with three different book ideas since college, about ten years now.  At one point, I had gotten about 1,200 words down for one of them, but abandoned the project when I couldn't figure out what to do next.  There it has sat, dormant and stagnant for years.

I can remember downloading an episode of the new defunct podcast "The Deceptionists" that dealt entirely with NaNoWriMo.  I listened to it while I mowed the lawn last summer, and made vague and ultimately unkept plans to participate.  When November rolled around, getting 50,000 words down seemed like too much of a task to undertake, so I instead wrote more angry letters to television stations and women who ignored me at stores, because I am a classy guy.

This year, I didn't really make a plan for it.  It just so happened that on November 1st, I saw a posting that you had started, and I decided, "What the hell?  I'm doing it."  Most of the good decisions in my life have been made that way, so it seemed promising.  How hard could it be to write an average of 1,667 words per day?  Most of my Open Letters are between 500 and 800 words, so it'd be about two or three angry letters a day.  Old people do that, so I could do that.  I did an eenie meenie mynie moe, and picked one of the three stories. 

The first two days went well.  I hit my word counts, and the story seemed to start well.  My character voice was strong, and I was surprised already with some of the story choices I made on the fly.  On day three, I hit a wall, and decided everything I had written was terrible, that I couldn't write in third person, and that I look terrible when I wear flannel.  Not all of those were relevant to NaNoWriMo, but I was in a bad place.  I tore down the story and started over.  Somehow, I even caught up and went ahead. 

As I stated, my free time suffered.  The little social interaction I usually do had to be cancelled in lieu of writing.  Luckily, the website for NaNoWriMo offers interaction with other writers, and after browsing, I found out that there was going to be a "write in" for people to get together and work on their stories around other participants.  That seemed like a great idea!  I could meet some people, knock out some pages on the book, and since it was at Panera, I could get a scone.  I just hoped the waitress I had written a letter about previously was not there. 

The write in was set to begin at 12PM.  I showed up a fashionable 15 minutes late with my laptop and a can do attitude, but couldn't find anyone else with the group.  Then, in the back, I saw an older gentleman with a laptop.  Surely he was there for the write in.  I set up shop behind him. 

Looking over at his screen after I had set up my computer, I saw he was doing a crossword puzzle online.  He was not a kindred spirit.  I went to the website and the Maryland NaNoWriMo Facebook page, and put a call out to the other people to see if anyone was coming.  After an hour, I still had no response.  I did find out that the woman that was supposed to be running the write in was in fact a 17 year old high school girl, so that started to bode less well.   I shook it off, and continued to work.

After a couple of hours, I heard some people talking loudly.  I looked up, and there was a young girl asking a group in a booth I couldn't see, "Are you all here for the write in?"  She introduced herself as the coordinator, only two hours late to the party.  I figured I was already there, I should go introduce myself as well, so I got up and walked over.

The booth these people were sitting at was behind a partition, so I didn't see anyone until I turned the corner and was standing right  at the table.  There sat another four high school girls.  The entire turnout for the write in was 5 high school girls and a large 30 year old man that hadn't shaved in five days and was wearing a shirt that said "Rough Rider" with a skull and crossbones that looked like Teddy Roosevelt.

I had stopped at the table, and before I could move on, all five girls turned and stared at me.  I had to say something at this point, so I told them I had heard them mention NaNoWriMo, and I was a participant too, and thought I would say hello.  To their credit, the girls were very nice.  They asked what I was writing, I politely answered, and quickly tried to go back to my seat.  That was when in unison, they all told me to come and sit with them. 

Again, this is five high school girls, at a table in the middle of the day at Panera.  There is a grizzled man that has been sitting in the corner, who everyone has seen get five cups of coffee from the self serve, and was muttering to himself for awhile over a laptop.  Had I sat at their table, the cops would have been called in record time.  People around them were watching, and they gave me looks that let me know that in no uncertain terms I was being viewed as a dirty old man.  I did not explain any of this to the girls.  I just ran back to my seat, threw on headphones, and tried to look nonchalant while I sang along softly to When In Rome and typed frantically.

I made sure that when I left, I looked at the carpet.  The carpet does not judge me.  The carpet knows I am not a bad person.  Only I could enter a writing contest and end up a pervert at Panera.  I have a superpower for misunderstandings and awfulness. 

1 comment:

  1. WOW! If it makes you feel any better, the coordinator did not show up for the first write in I went to either. Which is why the next year I just started hosting my own damn write in. And that's what you should do next year. If the teenage girls seek you out, then you're not a perv. LOL!

    To be fair I am not male, so if the teenage girls had shown up to my write in, I suppose I would have just looked like one of their mothers trying desperately to connect to my daughter. Sad and clueless about their topics of conversation and book subjects.

    Anyway, you're a sport for trying to go to a write in at all. Unfortunately they are sometimes run by folks who commit in cyberspace a month ahead of time and then find out that the hour or two they promise to be somewhere is too difficult. At least that's what seemed to happen in my case.

    Another thing you can do next year is make yourself some table toppers with the NaNoWriMo shield logo. That way if you can't find the group, you sit your ass down at a table with some available chairs and put the tabletopper up. Now folks have a way of finding you without doing the "Hey.... are you here for the write-in?: thing. And it's unobtrusive enough that no one is going to think twice about seeing a table tent topper thing with a logo they don't recognize.

    Just some tips from a five year veteran and NaNo winner this year. I do hope you'll try it out again next year. It's worth it for the discipline, online support, deadline and occasional human interaction with real people in Panera. When they show up. :-)


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