My name is Russ. I’m a journalism student, and I didn’t expect to be in jail. They took me to a squat police station and parked my ass in an interrogation room. They took my cell phone, so I don’t know exactly how long I’ve been sitting here. On the wall in front of me is a mirror, and I keep trying to catch a glimpse of movement behind it.
Maybe I should back up. I can’t believe all of this started with a USB thumb drive.
I intended the novel to be a technothriller, but the the joy in writing a book is seeing where it takes you. It took me to a hacker’s den in Washington, D.C. for part of the story. But it also led me through a discussion of file formats for government documents. Go figure.
My best friend from high school also participated and finished. My wife wrote 50,000 words too. So I was lucky to discover one huge secret of writing: find a writing buddy. It was both humbling and motivating to write with my friend. Humbling, because he let me read what he wrote, and he’s a better writer than I am. Motivating, because I knew he’d be waiting to read what I wrote too. It was enormously fun to compare notes and follow the progress of my friend while we endured the challenge together.
I wrote my entire novel in a single document in Google Docs, and it worked great. In fact, it worked better than great. I added hyperlinks in quite a few spots so a reader could dive more deeply into a topic. When I wanted to insert a picture, it was easy. When I wanted to throw in text that appeared on a computer screen, I could change to a monospaced terminal font. I felt much safer knowing that the novel was backed up in the cloud instead of sitting on a local hard drive that could easily fail.
My best friend used Google Docs too, and a couple times we both had a document open at once. I could see his cursor moving around and watch him writing text in real-time. We also used the “comment” feature to leave jokes or encouragement in each other’s doc. I was really pleased with Google Docs for writing my novel: A+++++ would do business again.
I also learned the value of a plot outline, mainly because I didn’t have one. I started with a vague idea of my plot, and I knew the ending I wanted. I wrote until I got to my ending, and *crap* I was only 1/4th of the way to 50,000 words. So I kept going beyond my original ending and it turned out fine. But the next time I write a novel, maybe I’ll think a bit more about the plot before I start.
According to the official site, 37,479 people “won” National Novel Writing Month by writing at least 50,000 words. Congratulations to the successful novelists, and all of the 200,530 people who took part in this challenge! This 30 day challenge was definitely one of the hardest I’ve tried. To write a 50,000 word novel in a month, you have to write 1,667 words a day. Each day, I wouldn’t go to sleep until I’d written my word count for that day. For me, that took at least an hour and forty minutes every day, and normally more than two hours each day. I stayed up until 1 or 2 a.m. a lot of nights in November. But on November 29th I finished, and I’m really glad I did. This month I’m doing an easy 30 day challenge (“learn a new word a day“) to recuperate.
I arranged things so that my novel wrapped up just after the 50,000 word mark, but my friend is still pushing forward. My final word count according to the NaNoWriMo web site was 50,035 words (50,675 words according to Google Docs). I’m glad that I did this challenge because now, I’m a novelist.
I’m torn about whether to open the doc up for everyone to read. It’s got all the normal warts and blemishes of any first novel, plus a few extra. Part of me wants to push all the way through and make it a real, physical book on Lulu or maybe make it an ebook, just to learn how that process works. We’ll see. Maybe that will be another 30 day challenge.