November 16, 2009


Posted in Uncategorized at 10:52 pm by Ian

Last Tuesday, I met with my book club. Caitlin asked me what I was up to, and I mentioned that I was writing a novel for NaNoWriMo. I told them about the concept and they asked me about my novel.

I told them that it was set in post apocalyptic San Francisco, but I was still figuring out the story.

sound of a record skipping

Why did I do that? I brushed past it and changed the topic. On the drive home I kept thinking about it. I was embarrassed that I was writing a story about zombies. But that wasn’t it; I wasn’t embarrassed by the zombies. I was embarrassed that I was writing toward a goal that was meaningless.

Two years ago, when I failed to complete the novel I was writing, it was because I didn’t know how to write it. I was so out of touch with my romantic side that I looked forward into the heart of the story and froze up. This year, as the beginning of November approached, I chose my topic because I knew it would not be challenging. It turns out that it was, but in a way I didn’t expect. It was challenging to even work on it because it felt hollow.

Driving home, I was fired up about just chucking what I had done and starting over completely. A day later, I realized that I was still thinking about it the wrong way. One of the reasons that NaNoWriMo is great is that it provides an external motivation for something that I really wish I’d do more of on my own. But in this case, it was an external crutch. I was focused on meeting that goal, but it was a completely arbitrary one. It’s not actually what I want to do.

Three years ago, after I had finished my first novel, I decided that the next year, I was going to write short stories instead of another novel. I never did it, but I should have, because I love short stories and I want to write them. So, that’s what I’m going to do for the rest of the month.

Three short stories in 15 days.

Then at least one each month for the next eleven months.


  1. Lisa said,

    I don’t know you very well, but I have a hunch you can do it.

  2. Daniel said,

    Awesome! Sounds kind of like what I’ve been doing; just jotting down short story notes and when I’m able to I crank through a little bit of one with no self-imposed meaningless deadline.

  3. Ryan said,

    I randomly started doing something similar a couple of months ago: I’d just sit down and write out a short character sketch once a week or so. No schedule, no deadlines. Just writing when I felt like it. I found it helped to focused on just completing whatever it was I was working on each day, and then moving on to a different story. I’ve been really enjoying it. And as a bonus, I’ve been able to leverage some of my characters in my as-yet-unabandoned NaNoWriMo attempt.

    Just be sure you post the good ones so everyone can benefit! šŸ™‚

  4. AB said,

    That’s interesting. As the plot of my novel slowly disintegrates, it’s becoming a framing device for a bunch of short stories told by one of the characters. My conclusion: short stories are great. Have you considered a series of short stories told by zombies in a post-apocalyptic San Francisco? I think zombie perspectives are criminally under-represented in modern literature.

  5. Kyle said,

    That’s a great idea! NaNo is all about what you can make of it. I do think it’s a great external motivator, and the sense of competition helps, for me at least, as well. But if the arbitrary goal of writing a 50k word novel isn’t what you need, then pick another goal. A few years back, NaNo came around and I realized I wasn’t in the right place to write a novel, but I already had the first very rough draft of a ~100k word novel sitting on my computer. What I really needed was a motivator to go through it and do a thorough 1st edit. I decided, quite arbitrarily, that a thorough edit of 100k words is “worth” an original writing of 50k words, and embarked on NaNoEdMo. Worked like a charm šŸ™‚

    So if you like short stories, go for it! I’m sure you’ll do awesome!

  6. Jess said,

    Internal motivation beats external any day, trust me. Think past term-paper deadlines and define the goal for yourself. Maybe use NaNoWriMo as a template for your own goal. Don’t give up writing all together though! Short stories are my favorite.

  7. Scrippsie said,

    How about a post to kick off 2010?

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