My first reaction was, “Are you kidding me?”
Fifty thousand words? In only 30 days?
This is not the article I intended to write today. But when I saw a logo for the NaNoWriMo writing exercise on another site, I got completely sidetracked. And intrigued. And began pondering whether or not I should participate.
When I clicked the link and read the description, a couple of things jumped out at me. First of all, that’s 1,667 words per day. When you break it down in that fashion, the task doesn’t seem so daunting. After all, I’m a lawyer. I can crank out a brief containing a lot more words than that without even getting warmed up or breaking a sweat. And do on most work days.
I entered a Short Story Contest this time around and it was nearly impossible to limit my entry to 1,000 words. I rewrote and rewrote . . . I almost said “Fuhgetaboutit” and hit the “publish” button, figuring I would post the article here, but skip the contest. But I’m extremely stubborn and I was determined to participate in this particular contest, so I persevered and believe that the final product is far superior to the draft versions. Leaner, tighter, a crisper read.
That story came in at 998 words. No matter how you look at it, I made it with virtually no nouns, verbs or adjectives to spare. So I can write 1,667 words. That’s a given.
But every day? For a whole month? That requires focus, concerted effort, direction. It means having to come up with fresh content each day — new ideas tempered by continuity, cohesion. Can I sustain that kind of overarching vision? Do I have the drive?
Again, on a professional level, I have completed countless lengthy writing projects. Appellate briefs, for instance, are often limited to 50 pages, including footnotes. And presenting all legal arguments related to a complex matter in only 50 pages can be extremely challenging and time-consuming, especially when you must cite to the trial record. I am currently completing an assignment that will be literally voluminous — 800 or so pages thus far and no end in sight.
But not in 30 days.
On a professional level, my focus is predetermined for me to a large extent. Persuasive writing is about shading and shaping facts provided to you in order to secure a result. The universe of available facts and legal theories is limited. The objective is to win the case and the issues are framed by its factual underpinning, although lawyers certainly use their written product to nuance and frame the issues in the manner most advantageous to their client. So legal writing can be a very creative endeavor.
Writing a novel is a very different matter. The novelist creates the story, the facts, the characters, the settings . . . By definition, a novel is “a fictitious prose narrative of considerable length and complexity, portraying characters and usually presenting a sequential organization of action and scenes.”
I have openly admitted here previously that I do not write fiction. I tried it a couple of times in college with absolutely no success. I like to think that I am a creative writer within my nonfiction comfort zone, but I am not an imaginative writer. I have no idea, as I sit here thinking about all of the possibilities, what my story arc (is that the correct term?) would look like.
I can’t even imagine — yet — what kind of tale I could tell or how I would stretch it into 50,000 words.
And frankly, the limitless possibilities intimidate and discourage me as much as they inspire and excite talented fiction writers.
So I guess I need to evaluate whether or not I have the desire and willingness to push myself into a new genre. Do I really want to see where navigating the uncharted territory of my imagination, a working keyboard and blank computer screen will lead me?
Fortunately, I have until October 1 — as do you — to consider all of the possibilities and decide whether to participate.