The Protagonist: So….How’s That Novel Coming Along?

Written by NYPress on . Posted in NY Press Exclusive.


Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons

The blustery winter months are fast approaching, days are getting shorter and mulled wine, fireplaces and Snuggies (a safe distance from those fireplaces) are starting to sound pretty good, just about all the time. It’s the perfect time of year to hunker down with a trashy novel, tucked discreetly behind that Snuggie.

So how’s that novel — the one you’re writing — coming along?

Two weeks ago, The Protagonist featured two Seattle-based folk, both in the tech field, who were respectively trying their hands — or keyboards — at NaNoWriMo, an almost cult-like collective of sorts that annually urges its followers to write a novel throughout the month of November. Like something you might bring to a potluck, the novel doesn’t have to be great, it just has to get done.

Two weeks ago, our amateur writers were just starting out. The Protagonist decided to catch up with them to see how — and if — things were coming along.

“I’ve been telling lots of people about my novel so I’m going to feel really lame if I don’t finish,” said Mark Phair, in what struck The Protagonist as an optimistic tone.

“Things traditionally fall off for me around a week in, so to still be moving along is pretty exciting,” said Phair. “I think the secret this time is a combination of accountability…and amusing myself way too much.”

Unfortunately Phair’s real, live writing group has fallen apart, so, aside from his fellow NaNoWriMoers, he’s going it solo this time.

Phair draws the inspiration to keep going from his inspirations themselves. “Sometimes I read or re-read some of the things that I’m parodying in the book,” he said. “I have to look back to Da Vinci Code now and then and I’m in the process of reading Fifty Shades of Grey. I actually watched Twilight last weekend, in the interest of getting source material.”

The Protagonist did not push Phair to find out if his interest extended beyond mere “source material.”

“My cast of characters is growing at a somewhat silly pace, but I think that is one of the things that has kept me moving. Whenever I’m worn out on a particular plotline, I just introduce a new one. I’ve got some characters that only show up in a single chapter so far,” explained Phair.

“With conspiracy novels…it always pays to get more people involved,” he added.

Phair also amuses himself with extraneous internet research: “I’ve never been to Sudan, but that isn’t stopping me from sending my characters there,” he explained. “I can see what it looks like on Google Maps; that’s good enough, right?”

“In the spirit of poorly-researched best-sellers everywhere, onward!” he said, concluding our interview.

Molly Watson appeared slightly more flustered about the process. “Curse you Netflix instant play!” she tellingly “shouted” at The Protagonist, via email.

Watson, who spoke more philosophically about the experience, cited author Steven Pressfield as an inspiration.

“Resistance is that little, sometimes very loud, voice in the back of your head that convinces you not to work on the thing that you want to work on. It reminds you… ‘who are you trying to fool, why don’t you go become a sandwich artist at Jimmy John’s?’” explained Watson, of Pressfield’s definition of “resistance.”

Watson said some days she manages to overcome this resistance, but other times her attempts seem futile. Though Watson finds herself behind where she’d like to be, certain things help urge her along, including regular NaNoWriMo pep talks, which are disseminated to WriMoers every few days.

Other motivations for Watson include public radio personality Ira Glass, and advice that extends well beyond the realm of fiction-writing:

“This is just today, tomorrow will in all likelihood be different.”

WriMoers now have 14 days to finish their novels, or reach the 50,000-word mark. (NaNoWriMo official rules make it explicitly clear this cannot be the same word repeated 50,000 times.)

Alissa Fleck 

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