Jewish World Review March 16, 2004 / 23 Adar, 5764

David Grimes

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Consumer Reports

Write that novel — QUICK! | If you are looking for something to take your mind off the upcoming presidential election (and who isn't?), you can start preparing yourself for National Novel Writing Month.

Here's the deal: You have one month (Nov. 1-30) to write a novel that is at least 50,000 words long. Needless to say, quality is not an overriding concern. In fact, if you come up with anything that is not downright odious, you have probably cheated on the time frame or plagiarized.

The "winner" is anyone and everyone who actually succeeds in pounding out 50,000 words of bad dialogue and dead-end plot lines in 30 days. All the organizers at do is verify your word count. No one will even read your novel unless you order them to, most likely at gunpoint.

Why do this to yourself? Because you'd never do it otherwise. The aspiring amateur novelist promises himself he'll get around to it "someday," but that day never comes. The 30-day deadline is intended to provide focus so you actually get the thing done, for better or for worse. (Odds heavily favor "for worse.")

Why waste a month of your life and risk a fatal case of carpal tunnel syndrome writing something that you know is going to suck? Because it could be fun. Because you'll be so glad when it's over. Because — and this is the part that appeals to me — you will be able to corner total strangers at cocktail parties and read them long excerpts from your new novel to the point that they would actually consider packing gobs of brie into their ears just to muffle the drone of your voice.

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Since my career basically consists of spewing out 600 words of drivel, three times a week, month after month, year after year, the thought of writing a 50,000-word chunk of it in one frantic, caffeine-fueled, month-long marathon doesn't excite me all that much. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it.(Approximately 20,000 people accomplished the feat in 2003.) In fact, to help you get started, I'll even suggest a couple of opening sentences that you may or may not use depending on how dreadful you want your first novel to be.

  • "As pinkish clouds scuttled across the otherwise grayish winter sky in a northeasterly direction like cotton-candy-colored crabs fleeing a pot of boiling water spiced with red pepper flakes and bay leaves, Maynard's hungry eyes wandered downward from the wind-whipped trees and wheeling gulls that had been attracted by the frozen but still piquant aroma of the landfill, and he realized then, to his despair, that he was 50 years old, overweight, divorced and standing alone in the middle of a cold, reeking dump without benefit of pants."

  • "Eugene's relationship with Andrea had once smoldered like a pile of damp, greasy rags into which a cigarette, quite possibly a Marlboro, had carelessly been flicked, most likely by the lawn guy, Venton, who hated it when anyone mispronounced his name as "Vinton," which was a rather ludicrous bit of correctitude for a person who routinely mowed the zinnias no matter how many times it was pointed out to him that they were flowers, not weeds, which just so happened to be where Eugene and Andrea's relationship now found itself ever since a story in a supermarket tabloid revealed that Eugene was a hermaphroditic Elvis-impersonating android."

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    JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


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