Thursday, October 6, 2011

Preparing for the Madness

I've already taken part in NaNo (National Novel Writing Month for the uninitiated) every year since 2006. Every year, I had no idea what I was going to write until just days before the first of November. Some years, I spent weeks pondering an idea I liked, only to lose my enthusiasm for it and be lured away by another. Yet every year except 2007 (when a very close friend died in September), I've "won". Some years, I didn't think I was going to make it. Yet even when I was behind my target by over twenty thousand words, I somehow managed to write so much in the last week or so that I caught up.

I take NaNo seriously, in that I refuse to resort to any of those strategies to pad my word count that many NaNo veterans love. I confess that I don't worry about sparing words while I'm writing, but I won't throw in extra, pointless scenes just to reach that day's target. My interest in NaNo is as a way to spur myself to write more, but to write something I can at least edit into a good story. Which is, of course, all any first draft is. So I use NaNo for a serious purpose, to lend myself the energy to get more writing done. Yet I also find NaNo a lot of fun; it is exhilarating, refreshing, satisfying. (Decades ago, when I was in school, I was the only kid who didn't groan when we got a writing assignment. I had fun with them.)

But I've always assumed, like most who take part in NaNo, that I just "didn't have time" to do anything but use a computer. Ordinarily, I like writing out my stories with a fountain pen, then typing in that draft, and revising it a bit as I go. The experience of using a fountain pen - as opposed to any of the other soulless, purely utilitarian writing tools - is an enjoyable one in itself. I like the way the nib skates across the paper, the way the ink glistens, the varied colours that are available... I find it easier to write this way, and the experience is such that it actually encourages me to write. So, this year, I thought it would be interesting to see if I could still manage to write fifty thousand words in thirty days... longhand.

I discovered there is even a clause (the "Luddite clause") in the NaNo rules which will spare me the need to type in my handwritten manuscript. I may still do some of this, if I have time. I may even try to get enough typed in to validate my manuscript the way everyone else does. But it is good to know I have other options, if I need them. Although I would urge the powers that be who run the Office of Letters and Light to change the name of that clause to something more affirming. The Artisan clause, perhaps?

In any case, I also thought other writers, and fountain pen enthusiasts, might be interested in my adventures. I set up this blog, where I hope to post on most days in November, and perhaps through December as well, to share my thoughts and experiences with some of the pens and inks in my collection. I was originally planning to scan every page of the manuscript, but that raises a number of issues, so I'll post representative photos or scans of some pages whenever I feel my narrative needs illustration. I hope you enjoy the chance to vicariously take part in the wonderful madness that is NaNo and fountain pen use.

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