Last year, I spent most of the month sequestered in back rooms, pounding out 50,581 words (the target for the month is 50,000) that resembled a story. I cheated a little, borrowing on existing characters created and abandoned by an author who died a half-century ago, and placing them in a world I’ve been thinking about for nearly 20 years now. In some ways, this would be the introductory tale to a new world I hope to explore in a series of future stories.
Then I literally zipped the whole thing into a digital file and never opened it again.
The story has some problems, not the least of which would be a legal-permissions-copyright-intellectual property complication. It’s short and moves fast, and could use more description and development. I suppose this would be true of any first draft.
The biggest problem I had, though, was not with the story itself but with my time management. Writing an entire book in one month is labor-intensive and takes time away from your other activities. Instead of following through with it (revising, reworking, attempting to publish), I went back to work on collecting and editing my essays from the Republican-American, which I’ve promised to self-publish to benefit the newspaper’s Campership Fund.
I’ve now read, edited, and rough-sorted about 800 of nearly 1,000 columns I wrote for the paper between 1993 and 2018, pretty much in chronological order, with only the years 2015.75 through 2018.25 left to go. And that will take priority, partly because of the commitment I’ve made and partly for marketing purposes. I need to launch that book (or books) before the newspaper and its readers forget about the column (or die waiting).
So in November I’ll give NaNoWriMo another try. This time it will be “He Said, She Said,” a novel about the career of a couple of journalists who start with a local newspaper just after the Watergate era. It follows their careers through the days of Trump and “fake news,” exploring their own relationship but also the nation’s changing political climate and the rise and fall of the journalism industry during that period.
To non-newsies, that may sound dull, but I’m hoping that some behind-the-scenes color, some humor, and a look at the broad picture of a lifetime’s experience will help put our situation today into perspective.
And if not, there’s always the remaining columns to finish off. I’m dying to find out how that story ends, too.