NaNoWriMo: The Approach

It’s coming. Can you feel it? It sounds like thousands of keyboards being battered all at once, their keys clattering, crying, and falling silent. You can smell it on the wind. The smell of imagination, the incense of hope, and the bitter smoke of despair. The writers approach, their eyes wide, their fingers trembling, and on their lips the mantra: fifty thousand, fifty thousand, fifty thousand.


I’ve plunged into the madness of NaNoWriMo once before, and emerged, miraculously, victorious. I’m told there are not many that succeed on their first foray into that ravenous land. On that occasion I was writing a novel, The Failed Apostle, and I successfully penned its first 60,000 words that November. It was very hard. I was very glad I did it.

I am foolish enough to try again, after a fashion.

This time I do not have a novel which I would like to begin. I do, however, have another kid, and a larger and more pressing set of responsibilities. Examining my current projects and the realities of my schedule, I have put myself another, more realistic goal: I shall write four short stories in the month of November. One each week.

All together, these stories will probably not total more than 20,000 words—but this is hardly the point. As any short story writer will tell you, 2,000 words of short story may take as much effort as 20,000 words from a novel. Your canvas is smaller, and so your attention to detail must be greater. Under current conditions, writing a full rough draft of a story normally takes me much more than a week, so this will still be a significant challenge to my dedication and time. I think it will be worth it.

As with last time, I do not go into battle unprepared. I have chosen which stories I will write, and slotted them into a schedule.

  1. The Heresy Trial of Friar Travolo, about a monk who proves a thesis which is scandalous to the mathematical authorities of his day. This one is cheating, somewhat, since I already have it half-written. I do not care, though. It’s a difficult story for me to write, somewhat outside my usual oeuvre, and finishing it within its allotted week will be challenge enough.

  2. Mr. Yamamoto’s Night Janitorial and Demon-Hunting Service, about a young man who is trained to empty the trash bins and, if necessary, exorcise them. This one I have pretty clearly plotted in my head. It’s something of a satire.

  3. Whalesong, a story about (obviously) sunspots. This one is only a vague idea, yet.

  4. The Blasphemous, the Cruel, and the Weak. I have no idea what this one is about. I only have the title, which I love, but I still have to discover what the plot is.

Nor do I expect that I will have finished with these stories by the end of the month. It is enough that they be complete; making them be good is the task of the months to follow.

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