NaNoWritMo – the first 24 hours


October 31st, 11:45 pm

In order to get my start on NaNo, I’ve come to a Berkeley café that has been around forever, or at least it was around back when I was going to school here. It’s 11:30, a time when I’m normally crashed out on my couch chilling out after I’ve put the rabbits to bed. Yet, this Berkeley café is buzzing.  Oh right, I remember what it was like to be out and about late at night. 

There is a table of NaNoers over in the corner. Maybe 15 or more crowded around a couple of tables. I don’t like crowds, particular of strangers, so I’m sitting a couple of tables over by myself nursing my chai and brownie. I’m probably the oldest one here. It’s too late at night to making small talk

Oh well. Too late. I have been spotted and brought into the fold, name tag and all. Enthusiastic bunch. Apparently I’ll be sharing a table with Chris, the mad man who started this mess. There’s a guy who looks eerily like the actor Aaron Eckhart, who has his own smarmy charm. The woman opposite is a hot mess. It’s hard to tell if her eccentric attire is part of a Halloween costume or if she is a hot mess the other 364 days a year.

The organizers are young, perky and caffeinated.  They explain some sort of contest where the winner gets to wear a lovely Viking helmet for a limited period of time.  I don’t understand the rules, but then again, I don’t want to get helmet hair, much less Viking helmet hair.  We count down the seconds to midnight.  Ten, nine, eight . . . two and one! Start writing!  The conversation ceases and sound of frantic typing fills the air.  My computer goes into a coma.

After I remove the battery to restart it, the enthusiastic moderator shouts “times up!”  Huh?  Apparently one of the games they play during these write-ins is the periodic contest to see who can write the most words in 5 minutes.  Prize?  They get to wear the helmet.  Some guy did 184 words in five minutes.  I wonder if they made sense.  But that doesn’t seem to matter, he gets the helmet.

I soon realize that the whole concept of sitting around with a bunch of people in a busy cafe trying to write is vastly over-rated.  I can’t hear my own thoughts.  Hot Mess One and Hot Mess Two are having intermittant conversations while writing and the smell of their french fries is distracting.  As I look up, lost in thought I meet the eyes of a young fellow who looks even more terrified than I am.  For the life of me I can’t remember the awesome opening line that I had come up with on my drive home from work.  It’s gone.  Finally, I just settle for writing my own immediate thoughts: “Oh sweet Jesus, or should that be Buddha, what in the hell have I gotten myself into?”  And thus begins my novel.

November 1, 11:30 am

What a great day for writing.  We are having our first big storm of the season, so curling up on the comfy chair wrapped in my slanket with my ktties curled up nearby is my idea of heaven.  I pledge to finish at least my daily quota of 1,667 words before I go out and run some errands.

November 1, 2:30 pm

Ah. Sweet relief.  Having more or less finished my first chapter, and going over my daily quota of 1,667 words per day, I can rest a little easier. 

That is, until panic hits and I realize I had to write another chapter, or two or three or twenty.  Eegads.


10 responses »

  1. I am amazed at your tenacity to even be at a cafe around midnight and with the purpose of writing! I am in awe!

    The writing of a daily blog is tough enough, so the pressure to write a NOVEL would probably put me over the edge.

  2. My thoughts are similar to those of The other BQ. I admire your courage in setting out on this journey in a cafe around midnight.

    And then it occurs to me that it’s an incredible way to start out and I am, again like your first commenter, in awe.

  3. me too ~ and I have me own smarmy charm – never bin miss taken for a hot mess tho = but the night is still young ! ! !

  4. I went to a write last night. Big mistake but not for the reasons you mentioned.

    I like writing with crowds. Last year, I was the ML for the North Bay so I went to every single write in between Sausalito and Healdsburg. I loved it.

    BTW, it is perfectly acceptable to shush people that are distracting you.
    And another BTW, last year I crossed the finish line while at a write-in with Chris Baty! This year you started with him. Good karma, I think!

  5. If this post is any indication, you’re in top form.

    The description of the write-in was hilarious. I *intended* to stay up on Halloween and write. I *intended* to get jump started. But I went to bed at 10:30 like a venerable old biddy, and didn’t wake again for 11 hours.

    Yeah. It was about another 11 hours after that before I even started.

    I’m hoping that was the hard part though. The first line. The first paragraph. Your opener is pretty compelling…
    I’d keep reading.

  6. I once had the idea to write a novel. That never went very far. I think I got started, then slowly realized I didn’t stand a chance of finishing as I barely knew where I was going at the start. Such is life.

    But kudos to you for your dedication. Perhaps one day you will be famous, and I can say I kind of know you.


  7. it sounds like hell. I think I’d have been arrested for stabbing fellow writers with cake forks after about 20 minutes…

    One day at a time is probably the best way to approach the project – don’t think about the other chapters, just your daily quota.

    And don’t worry about whether today’s words are good or not – you can worry about that when you come to the editing part of the project 😉

  8. speakin of smarmy ~ iz data palin inyer pocket oar didja just win the know bell prize ?

    my guess is 24 ours from now wheel no ~ no ?

  9. Hey L.B., how ya doin?

    Saw you were burning up the word count on NaNo. We’re all gathered round the set tonight, watching the election results.

    It feels good out there tonight. I hope the rest of this novel-writing gig happens under a hopeful, new administration elect.

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