My first full-length book was an unintentional experiment in proving the fact that quantity does not imply quality: At the time I believed that “real books” had to be a certain length, and based upon a non-representative sample (the Lord of the Rings), I believed I needed to write a novel at least 150,000 words long for it to ever have a chance of getting published.
The year was 2006 and I was a first-time NaNoWriMo participant. The challenge of National Novel Writing Month is to write 50,000 words–which while shorter than the average novel today (which is between 80,000 and 100,000 words), was a lot closer to the ideal length of a breakout novel than I realized: turns out most publishers won’t even touch something bigger than 150k if an author hasn’t already been deemed profitable because of before-published book sales.
Anyways. I digress. I want to talk about story, not statistics.
Back in the earliest days of my college career, I knew I wanted to be a teacher, but I also knew I never wanted to be a creative writing teacher: Don’t get me wrong, creative writing is one of my passions, but by that time I’d spent years participating in online writers communities, reading others’ stories and providing very detailed feedback.
And, if I may, I was damn good at it. People I’d never met before knew my name because of the quality constructive criticism I gave, and sometimes writers would ask me out of the blue to read their rough drafts or proofread their final copies. I was even invited to judge not one but two different short story competitions!
So why didn’t I want to become a creative writing teacher? And now that I’ve finished teaching a four-week creative writing elective, why will I never teach it again?
There is, at our very deepest, a driving force for each of us. It fuels the beating of hearts, the breath filling our lungs, the meter of our feet and the cadence of our speech.
I suppose most people never know their driving force–it’s far too deep, you see, and in a world with an attention span hardly longer than a few seconds, I doubt most of us can hold our breaths long enough to dive so deep within to find it.
I don’t watch the news–the news is depressing. It’s one bad story after another, and the points of importance are pushed aside for the next sensational headline.
Instead I follow stories. I try to understand the exposition, the unwritten prologue, the implications of chapter three, the critical reviews of the page-turning epilogue. And lately, I’ve been reading from a new library–rather than merely perusing the shelves of LGBT identity, Jewish / American intersectionality, and the occasional op-ed on immigration, redistricting, and presidential campaigns, lately I’ve been reading about race.
Here I’ve found more stories, maybe, than I bargained for (and as I write this, I’m reminded of some good advice to beware of the danger of a single story): there are tragedies with names like Travon Martin, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice; settings as varied as McKinney and Ferguson and Baltimore; and narratives simple and complex, like Black Lives Matter.
But the story today that’s swimming through my newsfeed is none of these.
National Novel Writing Month is one week away and I’m pulling my hair out, writhing on the floor, and scrambling between the rooms in my head to figure out what I’m going to write. I dream of telling stories that change the world–stories that impact a reader, share with readers an experience they won’t forget, and forge the kind of relationships I recall building between book bindings as I grew up and discovered who I wanted to be.
If you’re a sidebar solicitor, you might have noticed recently the “Realms of Wonders” category list has begun to change–“Essays” is slowly vanishing (but not quite slowly enough) while new categories like “Poverty” and “Equality” have popped up. This, I’m afraid, is but a small echo of what’s to come–tidings of the new face of the Writingwolf that I simply cannot keep secret until the forthcoming reveal.
Category confusion strikes again!
However, instead of trying to subtly ignore these obvious alterations, I thought I’d take a moment to peer into the future (and look deeper into myself) and try to answer an important question that’s begun to bother me: Why are tags and categories all that important after all?
In two days the month will change from October to November when the clock strikes midnight and National Novel Writing Month will begin–and it’ll also be time for me to re-evaluate my goals for another month. November is oft a time of intense chaos, and not just because of NaNoWriMo, so I figured I’d cheat fate and make this early as opposed to late.
I’ll begin at square one: My goals for this month.