I probably should be writing right now. I mean, I am writing right now, but I should probably be writing my latest attempt at an entry for the National Novel Writing Month. I am currently many thousand words short of where I should, in theory, be if I want to have written fifty thousand words by the end of the month. I guess it will just have to wait until after I’m done writing this!

A Depressing Start to the Competition
It was late October of 2002 when I found out about the National Novel Writing Month and the competition related to it. I had just gotten back to square one in most regards and I was unemployed and enormously depressed. I regularly went to bed at around three in the morning and woke up at around one or two in the afternoon. I didn’t really want to have anything to do with normal life and didn’t anticipate the want coming back any time.

I played a lot of video games during the afternoon and into the night. It was good in the sense that I went from having a lot of games that I rarely played and hardly ever beat to having a lot of games that I knew from top to bottom and beat thoroughly. It wasn’t so great from the sense that I didn’t do anything but play games. I also went online quite often and spent hours looking at news web sites. Anything to get me away from where I was in my mind at the time.

One day I came across a news release announcing that National Novel Writing Month was coming up, and that more and more people were trying the competition. Anybody could enter, and while there was nothing to win there was nothing to lose as well. All a person had to do was to try to write a story that was at least fifty thousand words long. It was late in October and while the rules stipulated that no writing could be done in October, planning and outlining could be done. I don’t recall the exact plot of that first attempt but I know it was mostly about a man who had been abandoned by the woman he loved. Not a far stretch considering that is something that had basically just happened to me. One of the basic lessons that I learned about writing has always been to write about what I know, so unfortunately heartbreak has been a rather popular subject for me to tackle.

While it went well at first, I ended up not finishing the story as I moved back to the Upper West Side of Manhattan a few weeks after moving to Highland Park — it would not be the last time I moved back to Manhattan after moving somewhere else. I spent the time focusing on trying to get a job and not working on trying to finish the story, but it still left me feeling good that I had at least tried.

Another Year, Another Attempt
Every year since then I have attempted to win the Nanowrimo contest and every year I have lost. I don’t know what it is but I have not yet been able to keep it together well enough to write about two thousand words every day — not a tremendous feat for me by any means. I have come up with wildly different plots, from the story of a young woman enduring the trials and tribulations of the first year of school to different people with relationship problems. Funny how that theme seems to come up a lot in my writing. Yet I keep on coming back to it every year, hoping to win every win and never managing to do it. What is more amusing to me is how I haven’t really changed my strategy that much from year to year even though it clearly is not working.

2009 — The Year to Win?
Even though at the present moment I have fewer than four thousand words, I am confident that this could very well be the year that I may win. I started thinking about this year’s competition months ago when I had the idea for a film about a couple of guys who go through a series of amusing situations with the ultimate goal of finding a rare and out of print record. This was during a time period in which I was just starting to get interested in vinyl collecting and so a story about people who collected vinyl seemed natural to me.

In October I had the idea that a story would be quite powerful if it were about a father and son who reunite to try to find the wife / mother who had gone off on quite an oddly powerful manic episode. A bit of inspiration came to me in late October when I figured out how I could combine the two stories by having the mother character seek out a rare vinyl release as well as having other characters who would also search for the vinyl. This year I also have the help of a friend of mine, Barbie, who keeps me on my toes by issuing challenges. This weekend, for example, she challenged me to write a thousand words over the course of the weekend. I chose to write this article first as I prioritize writing for Go Inside Magazine over the Nanowrimo challenge. After I finish this article, however, it is straight back to the challenge — both the one from Nanowrimo and the one from Barbie.

Conclusion
Whether or not I finish the competition this year, I know that I will have a good time doing it. Perhaps this is going to be the year that I lose and make the decision to completely change the way that I prepare for the annual competition. Perhaps, on the other hand, I may choose to finally look back at everything I have attempted to write in the last seven or so years and actually try to complete one of the stories until it actually becomes a quasi-acceptable work of literature — something that people might be able to read without gagging too much. That would certainly feel like a win in its own right.