Sunday, November 28, 2010


So I 'won' yesterday... that is to say, I passed my 50,000 word mark 25 words into the day... Oh, I know. I could have easily won the day before, but the last paragraph I wrote on Friday looks suspiciously like I might have had too much wine, so it's probably just as good that I stopped when I did.

Whatever the case, YESTERDAY was my second best writing day in November (5,317 words)... even though I only had 25 words TO. THE. WIN. I still had maybe 3 or 4 CHAPTERS to the DONE so I wrote and wrote and wrote—I REALLY want to actually be DONE with the end of November—not just won (I figure at the moment there is NOW just one chapter left... or one and a wind-up... I do that a lot on first draft... finish, then really finish... it s a 70/30 split on whether that extra gets expanded or dumped... the expanded more often seems right).

I have a large editing project that starts December 1. Okay, that's a lie. I have a large editing project that CONTINUES December 1. I did the read, small edit, and note taking in October, then I wrote a book (which by December 1 should REALLY be done—about 65,000 words—a solid first draft) and so it will shortly be time to write the BIG changes for LEGACY.

Before I do that though, let me talk a little about my WriMo... I shared a very little bit before I ever started... Forward on the basketball team found dead... he'd just had a very public fight with a good friend of my MC... I have a vague image in my head of the MC, but a nice solid one of her friend Paige. (yes, Erin Chambers plays Siobhan on General Hospital, but she had exactly the right look for what I was thinking, though Paige is a little taller—about 5'8”) Anyway, as the book opens, Paige is having a very public, somewhat physical fight with the guy who ends up dead, so Callie, my MC ends up in a position where she is trying to solve what happened.

Most of the story is a fairly typical murder mystery, but as I wound up my word count, I thought of an underlying mystery that should make it creepier and scarier, so that's a bonus.

And Finally... those of you participating know that once a week or so (I haven't actually paid full attention) you get an inspirational email from a fellow author to keep going. Nine times out of ten I totally ignore these. It's a matter of just already having plenty to read... but this week's was from Lemony Snicket. I COULD NOT ignore Lemony (well for a couple days I did, but I didn't delete, and eventually I found time...) VERY glad I did. Here it is.

Dear Cohort,

Struggling with your novel? Paralyzed by the fear that it's nowhere near good enough? Feeling caught in a trap of your own devising? You should probably give up.

For one thing, writing is a dying form. One reads of this every day. Every magazine and newspaper, every hardcover and paperback, every website and most walls near the freeway trumpet the news that nobody reads anymore, and everyone has read these statements and felt their powerful effects. The authors of all those articles and editorials, all those manifestos and essays, all those exclamations and eulogies - what would they say if they knew you were writing something? They would urge you, in bold-faced print, to stop.

Clearly, the future is moving us proudly and zippily away from the written word, so writing a novel is actually interfering with the natural progress of modern society. It is old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy, a relic of a time when people took artistic expression seriously and found solace in a good story told well. We are in the process of disentangling ourselves from that kind of peace of mind, so it is rude for you to hinder the world by insisting on adhering to the beloved paradigms of the past. It is like sitting in a gondola, listening to the water carry you across the water, while everyone else is zooming over you in jetpacks, belching smoke into the sky. Stop it, is what the jet-packers would say to you. Stop it this instant, you in that beautiful craft of intricately-carved wood that is giving you such a pleasant journey.

Besides, there are already plenty of novels. There is no need for a new one. One could devote one's entire life to reading the work of Henry James, for instance, and never touch another novel by any other author, and never be hungry for anything else, the way one could live on nothing but multivitamin tablets and pureed root vegetables and never find oneself craving wild mushroom soup or linguini with clam sauce or a plain roasted chicken with lemon-zested dandelion greens or strong black coffee or a perfectly ripe peach or chips and salsa or caramel ice cream on top of poppyseed cake or smoked salmon with capers or aged goat cheese or a gin gimlet or some other startling item sprung from the imagination of some unknown cook. In fact, think of the world of literature as an enormous meal, and your novel as some small piddling ingredient - the drawn butter, for example, served next to a large, boiled lobster. Who wants that? If it were brought to the table, surely most people would ask that it be removed post-haste.

Even if you insisted on finishing your novel, what for? Novels sit unpublished, or published but unsold, or sold but unread, or read but unreread, lonely on shelves and in drawers and under the legs of wobbly tables. They are like seashells on the beach. Not enough people marvel over them. They pick them up and put them down. Even your friends and associates will never appreciate your novel the way you want them to. In fact, there are likely just a handful of readers out in the world who are perfect for your book, who will take it to heart and feel its mighty ripples throughout their lives, and you will likely never meet them, at least under the proper circumstances. So who cares? Think of that secret favorite book of yours - not the one you tell people you like best, but that book so good that you refuse to share it with people because they'd never understand it. Perhaps it's not even a whole book, just a tiny portion that you'll never forget as long as you live. Nobody knows you feel this way about that tiny portion of literature, so what does it matter? The author of that small bright thing, that treasured whisper deep in your heart, never should have bothered.

Of course, it may well be that you are writing not for some perfect reader someplace, but for yourself, and that is the biggest folly of them all, because it will not work. You will not be happy all of the time. Unlike most things that most people make, your novel will not be perfect. It may well be considerably less than one-fourth perfect, and this will frustrate you and sadden you. This is why you should stop. Most people are not writing novels which is why there is so little frustration and sadness in the world, particularly as we zoom on past the novel in our smoky jet packs soon to be equipped with pureed food. The next time you find yourself in a group of people, stop and think to yourself, probably no one here is writing a novel. This is why everyone is so content, here at this bus stop or in line at the supermarket or standing around this baggage carousel or sitting around in this doctor's waiting room or in seventh grade or in Johannesburg. Give up your n ovel, and join the crowd. Think of all the things you could do with your time instead of participating in a noble and storied art form. There are things in your cupboards that likely need to be moved around.

In short, quit. Writing a novel is a tiny candle in a dark, swirling world. It brings light and warmth and hope to the lucky few who, against insufferable odds and despite a juggernaut of irritations, find themselves in the right place to hold it. Blow it out, so our eyes will not be drawn to its power. Extinguish it so we can get some sleep. I plan to quit writing novels myself, sometime in the next hundred years.

--Lemony Snicket

Lemony Snicket is the author of  A Series of Unfortunate Events. You can learn more about his work here.

teehee... I miss having those books be on my anticipation list. I chuckled through all thirteen (thirteen chapters each)


Ellie said...

Congratulations on passsing 50K on your nanowrimo!

M.J. Nicholls said...

Amazing advice from Lemony! Even if no one alive would listen to him. I love Daniel Handler's novels, which justify their existence as caramel-drenched treats.

Cold As Heaven said...

A cute woman in that pic. Who is she?

"Besides, there are already plenty of novels. There is no need for a new one."

Yes, that's true. That's why my ambition is to write one, and exactly one, novel before I die. And since I'm not in a hurry (I hope), I just keep on rewriting and modifying stuff all the time, in addition to adding new chapters. I won't recommend anyone to read my novel when it's finished (you should rather read Dostoyevsky or Jean Genet), but it's a hell of a lot of fun to write it >:)

Cold As Heaven

Jan Morrison said...


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

If he's not stopping, neither I am!
Congratulations, Hart! I'll hit my 50000 this afternoon, although it will be another couple weeks before the first draft is finished.

Colene Murphy said...

Congratulations on finishing Nano!

That letter is pretty darn good. Thanks for passing it along! I still need to finish that series...

Erin said...

Golly. His pep talk was definitely the best one I've gotten so far. So good that I stopped writing my novel for a minute and pulled out (randomly) the third book and started reading it. I totally remembered why I loved him so much.

I don't know if I ever completely finished the series. I know what happens, but I don't think my nine year old head completely got it. Maybe that will be my December goal.

Also, I am determined to hit 50,000 by tonight, even though yesterday morning I was only at 40,000. :D

The Golden Eagle said...

Congrats on finishing NaNoWriMo! :D

I love read the pep talks . . . but Lemony Snicket's was the best of all of them, even from last year!

Ezmirelda said...

I agree Lemony's pep talk was the best one. It's like reverse phycology. He says "You might as well give up" and I'm thinking "I'm not giving up" *determined pouty face* haha :)

Congratulations on winining Nano!!!

Old Kitty said...

Thank you lovely Naked Tart for spreading more Nakedness in such a cold dark corner of southeast England!! I hope one day to be able to hold a tiny little candle of my own - it'll be only a smidge in this "dark swirling world", but it'll be my smidge! :-)

CONGRATULATIONS with your nano!! Yay!! And you have a great story already brewing up with a fabulous looking mc!!

Take care

Hart Johnson said...

This is my favorite:
"We are in the process of disentangling ourselves from that kind of peace of mind, so it is rude for you to hinder the world by insisting on adhering to the beloved paradigms of the past."

We're being rude. *snort*

Thanks for all the support, everyone!

CaH-the woman is named Erin Chambers and is on a television show called General Hospital as an Irish character named Siobhan, but I think she's really American.


Erin-DEFINITELY read them again! I read them to the kids and know I explained a good portion of his tongue in cheek stuff--then again I think Sam was 7 through most of them. And YOU CAN DO IT!!!

Jayne said...

Thank you for posting that letter from Lemony. Love it - just as much as I love writing that little candle in a dark and swirling world. And congrats on finishing Nano - well done you!

Jemi Fraser said...

I loved getting an email from Lemony Snicket - I mean how cool is that??? :)

Congrats on the win! I 'won' about an hour ago, but I've still probably got 15k to go to finish the story.

The Words Crafter said...

That letter was still sitting in my inbox, unread. Thanks for posting it here!

Congratulations on hitting the mark and for continuing till you really finish. I'm in the process of that myself, though I took today off.

I think one of our prizes should be a box of matches, don't you?

Anonymous said...

That's a fantastic letter. Funnily enough I am reading my very first Lemony Snicket book right now (well not right now).

Congrats on finishing!

KarenG said...

Awesome words on novel writing, and literature in general. Good ol Lemony Snicket.

Simon C. Larter said...

Congratulations, and holy crap! How can you manage to be so damn productive?

Must be the nudity. It's the only explanation.

gideon 86 said...

I am so proud of you Hart! That is soooooo great that you made your 50,000 words with days to spare.

I'm having a great time in Florida. Plan to visit WW tomorrow. YAH! There's lots more pics on my blog so don't forget to stop by when you get the chance.

Only five more days, then back on the road to Chicago.... BUMMER!


dbs said...

Excellent advice. I chuckled through many of his books too. One more thing. Secret book I loved that I don't think anyone else would understand (and I'm not sure if I really did either): The Logogryph by Thomas Wharton.

Rachael Harrie said...

Woot! Congrats on finishing (*claps*). Love the sound of your MS and great pikkie of one of your characters :)



Jenny Beattie said...

Congratulations on passing the 50k mark. Excellent progress.