The Write Frame of Mind

Monkey-typingAll 3 of you that read this thing have probably been wondering where the hell I’ve vanished to over the past month. Apart from my rant about the Melbourne Cup (which started as satire but turned into an element of truth as the hyperbolic leftists forget all about it until next year) and some appalling poetry, you’ve heard little from me.

The joys of staving off unemployment and entering the freelance world (another post for another time – and trust me, it’ll be a long one), as well as the business end of what I’m hoping was my last semester EVER at University (which will probably warrant a post itself), there has been one reason in particular that I’ve stayed away from using this as my creative, ranty outlet.

No, it wasn’t a cease and desist order, but rather a month-long challenge to write a novel. If you thought my blog was poorly written just wait until I force 50,000 words down your throat, society! HA!

That challenge was National Novel Writing Month, but we’ll call it by the shortened name NaNoWriMo. It took 30 days and was an experience in itself, so what better format to write about it in than the (surprisingly popular) form that I did with the 30-day ab challenge – a self interview!

Why the hell did you decide to write a novel?

There are a few reasons, and it’s hard to determine the primary one. First and foremost, my employment was coming to a close at a job where I often had to write mundane scripts full of agenda and so many lifestyle articles that I was starting to repeat myself. It was similar to the reason I brought this blog back to life in the first place – I was FREAKING BORED. I’ve got just enough savings to take care of rent and whatnot until at least the end of the year (even though I’m still owed a lot of money), and I still have freelance work that’s bringing money in (and in USD no less!), so why not take the time to do something personal?

From this boredom came the desire for a self-controlled creative project. Collaboration is fun but you’re only moving as fast as your slowest wheel, and when it’s a solo project you don’t need to wait for people to catch up or get their act together. With this I would be my own boss, and the onus for delivery and meeting deadlines was solely upon me.

There was also the fact that on November 1st, off the top of my head, I wrote down 3,000 words of what was supposed to be a short story. Only hours later a friend had put up the link to his NaNoWriMo page, I’d read all about the initiative and decided ‘why the hell not?’

So it wasn’t because you were burning to share a story with the world?

I’ve always written creatively. I remember in primary school writing a mammoth story involving our whole class in a haunted castle. It was about 8 pages long, which was absolutely mammoth at 6 years of age – but no, I didn’t have any idea of a story outside those 3,000 words I’d jotted down. I suppose part of me was cocky, thinking ‘hell, if I can write 3,000 words in about an hour with relative ease I’m sure I can get to 50,000 no problem.

Was it that easy?

In some ways I could say yes – I actually finished the novel before my exam on November 26th.

Much like the Ab challenge there were certain stages, and you get to a point just over 2 weeks in where you seriously start to doubt your own ability to make it over the line, let alone write a story that’s any good.

Then you get to that home stretch and you start to wonder how you’re going to manage to rein it in and end it before it stretches off aimlessly into eternity – or maybe that was just me. I guess it wasn’t really easy at all, but you find that the most rewarding things in life rarely are.

God that sounds wanky, but you know what I mean. The biggest mountains offer the best views from the top.

What did you learn about writing?

A few things that I’ll definitely be taking into the next experience, should I ever decide to do it again.

ONE – Writing chronologically probably helps. Those first 3,000 words I wrote take place in the middle of the story, and I wrote backwards from there to get to the start before finishing off the end afterwards. I have a feeling that this wasn’t exactly the best approach, and I’m sure that when I finally start going through the 200-page draft with a red pen I’m going to find a host of inconsistencies.

TWO – Having a plan also probably helps. Thankfully, much of this story wrote itself, but it wasn’t until near the end of the second week that I started making vague notes about possible directions and what I wanted my characters to do. Had I done this at the start and come to understand my characters a bit better before putting them to paper, and had a better idea of how I wanted it all to end, it could have a much more thorough feel. That being said, much of this novel wrote itself. I’d just sit down at the computer with what I wrote the day before in front of me and a vague idea of where I wanted it to go, but a large amount of this novel came straight from the fingers to the page with little to no thought. It will probably show.

So what is the book about? What’s it called?

The working title I gave it was Secret Urges, and I shuddered every time I cast my eyes over it – a feeling that working titles often induce. I don’t know how, but it stayed in the back of my mind, and now that it’s finished at 52,000+ words, I can’t think of a title even remotely more suitable that doesn’t sound even cheesier. Am I happy with it? Not really – but it could be a lot worse.

I joked, somewhat pretentiously, that it was a cross between the Russian authors like Dostoyevsky and the multiple-story format of Tarantino, but not as good as either, and I’m finding it hard to think beyond that. Yes, there are multiple stories about violent men who go about killing people, but it’s no Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs. Yes, it’s an incredibly bleak examination of the human spirit, depravity, guilt and masculinity but it’s no Crime and Punishment. Still, it’s as close to an apt description as I can come. It’s not a happy ending.

They say ‘write what you know’ – how much of yourself is in this?

It’s hard to say that there’s much of me in it, because there are many scenes and thoughts of violence and depravity, and they’re automatically what people would read into. My understanding of that particular saying is about emotion and feeling rather than particular events, and that’s where I’d say I can see myself.

The actions of my characters are often the lowest of the low, but there are patterns of thought, emotional ones that take all of us to those places, myself included. Are these depraved and violent actions extensions of my own feelings towards people? I like to say no, but even if they were, isn’t it better to turn them into a therapeutic fiction than to turn them into reality?

And that ended up being a big part of it – therapy. We’ve all experienced some pretty shitty things in this life, and we’ve all certainly done some shitty things in this life, too. I know I’ve pointed the shit-covered stick about as many times as I’ve been poked with it. This book is by no means whatsoever autobiographical, but it certainly made me realise a few things about myself.

Would you do it again?

I think I would, yes. Like I say, it was rewarding, educational and fun, and it restored my belief in my own creative abilities. I think next year I’ll be writing something much more light-hearted, perhaps even funny. Or I’ll just return to bleak violence. Who knows?

What happens to the novel now?

Not too much. I’ll head down to OfficeWorks at some stage, print it out and then slowly march through it with a pen. If the size of edits is manageable I’ll pursue it until completion, and if it’s too large I’ll probably just look at it again in January. If you’d like to read it let me know, and perhaps I’ll get a copy to you one day – or just as importantly you can head over to the NaNoWriMo page and make a donation – if you do I might even give you the pleasure of sifting through my 50,000 words and editing it yourself, lord knows I can’t be bothered right now.


For the immediate future though, expect a whole host of new reviews, rants and nonsense as goes back in to full swing. It’s good to be back.


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