Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ostrich, by Michael A. Thomas

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Once again I'm participating in National Novel Writing Month, the lemming-like annual event where thousands of people decide that writing a 50,000-word first draft in 30 days sounds more sane than ever because thousands of other people are attempting it, too.

Only this year, I'm prepared. I went from having no clue (2008) to a bare-bones outline (2011) to a structured series of notecards with scenes, backstory, research, questions to be answered, and motivations for minor characters. I have a writing desk that is, for the first time, not also my designated dining space. I have even left the four walls of my home in order to talk to real people in preparation for this novel. Gads!

About seven times per hour of writing, I also have that debilitating sense that I am a hack, that I have no business charting stories, and that this story will in no way succeed the way I have planned it.

The first two doubts require simply practice. (Or so the proverbs about perfection say.) And the last one -- oh, what a beautiful doubt that last one is. Because what a shame it would be if the novel kept the precise form I have planned for it! What a dirty stinking shame it would be if the process of writing didn't surprise me, reveal truths to me, teach me about myself!

My lovely little lady recommended this book to me, based solely on the tantalizing tidbits of the story I've spoiled for her. (Somehow, a slacking entrepreneur deciding to convert his father's sheep ranch to an ostrich farm sounded right up this NaNo novel's alley. And the recommendation wasn't wrong. What glorious mishaps must await the story I charted?) Yet Ostrich provided a different sort of inspiration, as recommended books often do.

The best laid plans... often bear unexpected fruit. Everything might go wrong with this suicidal first draft. But as long as I keep bullheadedly pursuing it, pushing its possibilities and discovering whether it's crazy enough that it just might work, I might get the end result I want (a rip-roaring comedic masterpiece) even if it's not the one I set out to write.

The plan works for VJ Eckleberry and all his bird-related master goals. So why not for writing a novel? It's even crazier than raising persnickety ostriches for cowboy boots. It just might work...

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