Today The Devil’s Spiral Shell cruised past 4o,ooo words. I am on pace to officially finish the novel on the first available opportunity — November 25th. If I’m am feeling especially saucy, I will be ready to submit the final novel at 12:01 AM on November 25th.
Rather than talking exclusively about the time I spend at the laptop writing (90 minutes to 2 hours each day), I decided it would be more revealing to talk about how I live inside the novel for a full month.
When I wake up and make my way to the shower, I’m back in the novel before I’m fully awake in the real world. I know I have a date with the computer coming up, and I don’t want to run out of story before I start typing. Imagining in front of a computer is like lying to someone who has proof you’re guilty – you can never come up with material fast enough to save your own ass.
Most days, I go straight from the shower to the keyboard. I eat breakfast and start typing between bites of cereal, and then I’m typing like mad when the bowl is empty. Some days I have a trashy horror movie playing while I type, other days I type in silence. Neither seems to provide me with any clear advantage. During this time, I keep typing and refuse to get stuck. If something in the plot doesn’t add up, or if I don’t feel inspired, I force the words onto the screen until it does work. Some of my happiest accidents have happened this way.
When I knock out 2000 words, I update my progress and save the file. I put the computer away, but I never really leave the world of the novel.
For the rest of the day, when I’m not involved in anything that requires deep thought, I am back in the novel with Derrick and Eldon, my protagonists. Sometimes I focus on where they are going and where they currently are. Sometime, I revisit where they’ve been to find details to weave into the story.
If you see me staring into space in November, I’m in the book. In October Derrick and Eldon didn’t exist. Now, I can walk through a department store and tell you what they would notice, and how they would react. Their enemies didn’t exist, either, but know I can tell you the entire history of the people who want Derrick and Eldon dead, back hundreds of years ago. In my private time, I’m always taking the bits and pieces from real life I need to thicken their story, so it’s real when I open the curtains and show everyone the monsters.
After I kiss my wife goodnight and listen to her fall asleep, I try to find the feel of the book. Sometimes, I find music that takes me there, and other times I imagine a certain style of lighting or a mental snapshot. I imagine the story I’m writing until it makes me feel the same way I want readers to feel. I’m never exactly sure when I fall asleep, so I know I’m dreaming inside the book I’m creating.
Then I wake up, gather what’s left of my dreams, and put together another day’s worth of writing.
The moral of the story? I’m going to be lonely without these characters on November 25th. National Novel Writing Month gives a writer the focus and motivation to magically create a world with pure imagination and then live inside of it for one full month.
Sometimes, the book feels like a nice fringe benefit. Taking the trip is the real headliner.