Those of you who recently completed a novel in November for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) might feel like you have one hot mess of an unwieldy first draft on your hands, but I’m here to tell you, my NaNoWriMo novel is far weirder than your NaNoWriMo novel.
Novel Writing Month is all about putting aside the inner editor. As a cat, I have no inner editor. I only have an outer editor, whom I control completely, so it’s a non-issue. I am so unrestrained by any sort of inner editor that I would have reached my 50,000 word count goal by the second day, but I kept forgetting to hit the space bar, so I have many, many pages that only count as one word.
*Side note: All this inner and outer talk makes me think editors are like bellybuttons.
So you know the principle of Chekhov’s gun? He said: “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”
Well, I got really excited about this idea, so I put lots of guns in my first chapter. There was the sawed-off shotgun that my young protagonist in her shark costume found in the backyard when she went to bury her dead hedgehog, Olaf; and there was the rusted antique .455 Webley revolver that old man Harris left to his estranged granddaughter, Lily, in his will with no explanation (it should be noted that Lily had webbed fingers due to an unfortunate radiation incident, rendering it difficult to pull triggers with much accuracy); and there were the guns sold to the Mexican drug cartels by the American Vice President’s secret gay lover (the lover of course got far more media attention than the illegal weapons or the crack); and then there were the Uzis, which I ultimately decided the vampire sloth gang didn’t really need, because that was just over the top.
There were other guns, too, I think, but I must admit I forgot them entirely, because I’m a little bit ADD. There was a fly on the window and then it was circling in the air and then it went all the way down the stairs and then up again and paused on the wall, and then the other wall, and then it went somewhere that I couldn’t see and then it came back again, and by the time I remembered I was supposed to be writing a novel, all I could think about was the buzzing, and how flies have faster vision than I do, and how it is impossible to beat them. This led me to feel rather defeated, and I got writer’s block for a few days, falling drastically behind.
But I am a resilient cat, and I remembered another tidbit of writing wisdom: Write what you know. So I wrote about catnip for twelve pages (Flies know nothing about catnip! Take that, flies!), but it was all indulgent sensory detail and adjectives and no conflict, so I added a tsunami. That part got really sad because there were animals trapped inside houses that drowned, but it’s like Faulkner said, you’ve got to kill your darlings.
*Side note: ukfdbfgwyf;finniurpmrhrbisb dgup3nrpfifyoy94mp0iwwwlqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqq qqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqq
**Editor’s note: My apologies, but Squirrel got really excited to type her own side note, and she can be rather insistent. To translate: “This keyboard is really warm, so I’m going to settle down here for a while, with the crux on my weight on the ‘q’ key.”
You would think that the tsunami would have been the main climax, but it happened way too early and I still had 39,268 words to go, and everyone was dead, so I had to add some Martians and some ghosts and some zombies. But oh, the clichés! This was turning into a genre novel and I am a literary cat, so I scratched all that and pretended the tsunami never happened, and figured I would solve that plot glitch later (That’s what revision is for!). Then I shifted the narrative toward the working man’s struggle for dignity and self-respect, and focused on the interiority of the characters, and the suppressed aggression with which the aristocrats drank their tea, and the gentle rain outside that made them feel a little bit romantic, a little bit melancholy, and secretly rebellious, all at the same time. I did not say any of that outright of course (Show, don’t tell!), but conveyed these feelings through gestures and metaphors involving jellyfish, fringed lampshades, and cholera.
When the time came to wind things down into resolution, I had more loose threads than I knew what to do with, but I decided that’s okay, because loose threads are like real life, and plus, they’re buckets of fun. It’s really exciting when you manage to trap one in your claw, because then you can pull it toward you and bite it. But then sometimes, a thread can get stuck on your claw, and if you forget that you have the power to retract your claw, it can become a bit of a problem, with your arm just hanging out there in the air—left hanging—if you will. Those endings can be a little annoying.
The bottom line is that writing a proper novel takes lots of hard work and commitment, which is not really my groove, which is why I’m a critic and not a published novelist. Discipline is for dogs. For me, NaNoWriMo was just a dalliance, albeit a lovely one. My point in telling you all this is that while I may be the one blessed with unfettered genius, take heart, because your manuscript, however awkward, is probably a lot more manageable than mine. So have fun with your revision! And good luck with that. I’m out.
P.S. What are the implications if your outer editor has an innie bellybutton?
P.P.S. I just conducted a Google image search for vampire sloths, and I concede—I am not the weirdest thing on the internet.