It’s National Novel Writing Month. You can go ahead and read that as “kick in the ass necessary to get something done for real for a change,” which is how I read it.
So I’ve logged on and saddled up. I’m planning to finish “Millennium Men,” the novel I’ve been working on since the last of my creative writing classes at Central Michigan University. This is technically cheating, as the NaNoWriMo program is geared toward writing a new novel start-to-finish in one month, but my need is completion, not to wander off in a new direction.
I hope to finish the novel by focusing my efforts for the month chiefly on finding this story’s middle. I have the beginning and I’m happy with it. I know where things will eventually end up. But it’s fleshing out that interior portion that’s tripping me up.
I’m also hoping that the structure of the novel will make it easier to eventually sell. I’ve been impressed by my friend Brandon Doman’s efforts with self-publishing on his project, “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” and I definitely think there’s something to self-promotion.
But I am sure that I am no good at it.
I’m no salesman. That’s something I’ve always known about myself. I hate self-promotion, I hate “pounding the pavement,” I hate doing the grunt work associated with creativity. It’s the reason I haven’t sent short stories to markets in the last nine months – I hate it. It’s an epic pain and what’s more, it distracts from writing, from spending time with people, and from exposing myself to other people’s work.
Beyond that, there’s something validating in finding someone else to publish your work, I think, and that’s the kind of reinforcement that I really, desperately need.
In high school, I went to a reading and book signing in Ann Arbor by Chuck Palahniuk when his novel Choke came out. Palahniuk read a chapter from one of my favorite novels, Survivor, during the event. It was spectacular.
The chapter previously had appeared in Playboy. Palahniuk gave advice to the audience: If you can get a few chapters of your novel published as short stories, it’s a lot easier to sell the whole thing.
That’s been on my mind for a while. I finished a fantasy novel during the early portion of high school, although, looking back, the story is far too influenced by The Lord of the Rings to be really viable. Other than that, I’ve got two other half-finished books that I doubt will ever go anywhere. Both of those were high school projects and lent more to learning than to publishing.
“Millennium Men,” though, is different. Right now, it’s my opus. It encapsulates the whole of my experience up to now and I think it’s a story worth telling and a snapshot of this time and what it has been like growing up in the modern era. When I do finish it, I think (and more hope) that someone will want to buy it. It definitely feels like it’s worth finishing.
Finally, to the point I started some paragraphs ago: “Millennium Men” actually is a series of interrelated short stories. And while working on trying to get it published piecemeal is a HUGE pain in my ass, it’s a two bird-one stone situation: Publish and get paid for the stories while writing the novel, then sell the novel. That’s pretty much living the dream.
One of the stories, “Walking Dead and Other Personal Problems,” appeared in CMU’s The Central Review. It’s one of two stories I’ve ever had (somewhat) professionally published, and neither for pay.
It’s Sunday, Nov. 1, and I’ve been up since 5 a.m. Time to get cracking.