I Wrote a Novel in a Month

Or Why I Haven’t Been Blogging.

“Thirty days and nights of writing abandon” so says the masthead for the National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo, website. The Challenge: write a novel in a month. A novel in NaNo terms is 50,000 words, roughly 1,667 words every day. For those of you with memories of finals week still fresh in your mind, that is that final paper that you wrote at the last minute, every single night, for a month. And people choose to do this? Yeah, and I was one of them. One of something like 300,000 worldwide for a word count around 3,288,976,325 (this year).

Heck yeah I did!

Heck yeah I did!

For the math whizzes out there, that doesn’t quite add up. If three hundred thousand people are writing, we’re coming up something like 12 billion words short. Clearly not everyone completes the challenge. But, I did! My 50, 102 words were part of those three billion words. I feel pretty accomplished  To be honest, there was a fair amount of personal back patting, but shoot, I deserved it! I’ve never written that much before.

So I’ve written a novel. Or something. I’ve written 50,000 words of a novel. Except that I haven’t even gotten the whole idea out… You have no idea how tempted I was to have the last official thirteen words be: “And then they were all hit by a bus and died. The end.” and just be done with the dang thing. But I didn’t.

Maybe you noticed that we are halfway through December and I’m still not blogging (sorry long lost drafts of October… I’ll get to you some day.) November has ended and yet, here I am, writing every day, still. Queue cramped fingers, crossed eyes, and yet more crumbs in my keyboard, all in order to achieve the goal, to write the novel.

The goal is different now, more intangible.  When you are counting each word, you have something to achieve. But now I’m just trying to finish the plot, and that isn’t quite as quantifiable. How do I know I’m done? Assuming I don’t send in the bus after all, that is. And when I’m done, is that a novel?

Saturn with its largest moon Titan.

Saturn with its largest moon Titan.

Before I can answer that question (if I can answer that question), I should tell you what it is about. It is about a National Park Ranger. At the Rings of Saturn National Park. Who gets wrapped up in a revolution to free the Saturnian moon system from the United States.

In the words of my esteemed friend Carolyn, “Is it supposed to be good?”

My answer: “Well…” Because I don’t know. I don’t even know what makes a good novel. What I know is: The science is good. The story is, if nothing else, original. And the characters have dimension, although I’m still working on that last piece.

So have I written a novel in a month? Not exactly. It probably won’t go any farther than the five free bound copies Amazon gives all NaNo Winners. Probably not more than five people will ever read it. But to tell the truth, that doesn’t matter. Because I beat this monster, this looming I never have so I never will mentality that kept me from writing seriously in the past. And you know what? Even if I am the only one who is, I can’t wait to read it.

But heck, it is a love story, wrapped up in the fight for good and evil, in outer space. What isn’t there to like?

The Planets, Intelligent Life, and Nail Polish

I am what you might call a nerd. And a dork; which may explain my rather continuous single status. It also explains why when I have an evening to myself I watch reruns of NOVA and paint the solar system on my fingernails. One such evening, of reinterpreting Hubble images went like this: I had already decided to give Jupiter two nails to fully account for its size, but Saturn is my favorite planet granting it the best finger, my left hand thumb. It is not only the largest nail, but also the easiest to paint. I did it first. It was only after, nearly an hour later, when all the nails were working their way to dry, that I realized my error.

Now if I hadn’t mentioned it, probably nobody would have noticed that I painted the solar system in the wrong order. Saturn comes after Jupiter, but my thumb comes before my index and middle fingers.  What can I say, though? I am only human…

Several months ago, and every time someone complains about us, I am reminded how much I absolutely love my species. When I made my solar system mix-up, I started thinking about how much of that adoration is due to our errors. Isn’t it our flaws and quirks that make us interesting? Since then, as if by fate, every day somewhere I hear that someone is “only human.”

Only human? Hello, are we not the dominating species on this planet? Sure, being the winners doesn’t make us the best. I studied history, after all, so I am well acquainted with that concept. But shouldn’t being human be a positive thing? I mean, humans have a lot going for them; least of which, thumbs.

So I’m back to Saturn and a new revelation. Maybe being “only human” is less about our abilities; less about what we can do; less about the size of our brains or the mobility of our fingers; and, possibly, less about our capacity for language. Maybe “only human” refers to our emotional tendencies.

I’m not a scientist or a pet psychic, so I don’t know what emotions animals do or don’t have, but I am comfortable saying that the only feelings my dog Dot Com acts on are those regarding his stomach. We, on the other hand, have all sorts of feelings and triggers competing for our attention. We are alone as a species that discovers the facts and then reacts in a way that dismisses that logic to make decisions based on something that must be in the brain, but feels like it is coming from the heart, and doesn’t always make sense. It is just our species’ curiosity and loneliness that causes us to bother with the planets at all. We are the ones that do things out of order from excitement. And it is humans, and only humans, who feel the need to talk about it later. See what I did there?