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I’m back! You can once again look forward to weekly posts on metafiction, structure in fiction, and storytelling! This post is a bit of a mash-up, but lately my thoughts have been a bit scattered, so there. Also, daily views have been way up, even though I haven’t been posting, so thanks for reading, internet people!
I also added “the art of storytelling” to my tag line, because it’s pretty much true. Not sure I’m 100% happy with how long it is now, but I feel it’s much more accurate.
Never fear failure
Well, I “failed” NaNoWriMo. And I also failed at updating you, the reader, on my progress! It doesn’t feel like a failure, though. I figured out what made NaNoWriMo important to me, and why perhaps it will become much less important in the future–or perhaps not.
NaNoWriMo taught me one very important thing: I can write a novel. A whole, complete, finished (if imperfect) novel. I am capable of putting pen to page for 50,000+ words, and taking my characters from the beginning, to the middle, to the end.
I tried Nano in 2007 but quit after a few days because of some boy trouble, and in 2008 I came back at it with a strong sense of determination that paid off. I had a blast, and I proved to myself that I could finish a large writing project. 2009, was in some ways, I think, a reaffirmation of that. The first time wasn’t just a fluke. When I won in 2009, I was proving to myself that I had more than one novel in me.
This year, I didn’t need to reassure myself. I had, the week before, finished another book (the infamous metafictional travel memoir). I knew I could write a novel, and I knew I could write it in 30 days. Maybe I was tired from writing the other book (true). Maybe I was too busy with work and hosting my first Thanksgiving (true). Maybe I was busy with the book drive (also true). But in the end, at the very heart of the reason I gave up on Nano this year, is that I didn’t need it, and I wasn’t having fun doing it.
It felt kind of like riding a bicycle with training wheels, after you’ve graduated to a “real” bike and have been riding it for months or years. It doesn’t feel the same. You feel constricted, like you’re not really free, because you have to write x number of words per day for x number of days. That’s how I felt during November, until I gave up, and said to myself “I might finish this novel, but not right now.”
So will I do Nano next year? I don’t know. Probably not, as I will be up to my ears in an MFA program. Will I ever do Nano again? I’m positive I will. The next time I come to a mountain I can’t climb, or a hill I’m terrified to go down, or I have to graduate to a unicycle, I know NaNoWriMo will be there to help me through it, and teach me what I need to know about the grand adventure that is writing. So it goes.
Audio books, or why my car rides will never be the same again
I always thought audio books were “cheating.” You’re not really reading, you’re listening. And maybe I still think that, a little bit.
But I LOVE them! I decided to give them a try during my monthly newspaper deliveries to help the time pass and make delivering 4,000 newspapers in all kinds of weather tolerable, if not fun. I found a few audio books on cassette for sale at my local library, and have been working my way through them. I’ve listened to three book so far, and am on the fourth. I wrote a review of the first one I listened to, which you can find over at The Figment Review!
In a way, I feel as if I’m rediscovering reading for the first time. I’m hungry for audio books. I suddenly want to drive places alone so I can listen to them (no cassette player in the house). Whenever I see one now I want it, no matter what genre, no matter what author. I’ve yet to almost get into an accident, but if I find driving has distracted me from listening, I rewind the tape to make sure I didn’t miss anything. In other words, it’s wonderful.
This is how I felt when I was a kid, and I read anything I could get my hands on. Of course I still read constantly, but never as much as I like. Or perhaps I’m only striving toward some childhood ideal that I’ve inflated in my mind but never really existed, you know, a childhood in which I never watched TV (false) and spent all day curled up with a book (also false). I read a ton, but I also watched cartoons and spent lots of time playing outside (riding my bike, catching minnows and salamanders in the creek, roller blading, shooting my brother with super soakers, etc.) Of course, many of my pretend games were inspired by books (Narnia and Big Red are two examples), though that doesn’t count as reading.
That was kind of a tangent, but you get the point. I feel like that again, listening to audio books. The act of listening, absorbing and understanding the spoken word is so similar, and yet so different, from the act of reading those same words. I think I still prefer reading, because it feels more active, but there is something to be said about the way the human voice delivers these stories to my ears.
In all the audio books I’ve “read”, the readers subtly change their voices for different characters. This creates an effect beyond the differences in characters’ written dialogue. It adds to the book. I like it, because that’s what I do in my head when I read, but I also don’t like it, because the reader’s voice is forcing the idea of a character onto me (kind of like watching a movie and then reading a book, the image of the character from the movie is probably all you can think about while you’re reading).
Even still, the thing that matters the most is the words that the author has put down. The reader can only bring so much to what’s already there. A great reader isn’t going to save a crappy book, and a crappy reader probably won’t ruin a great book. So I think the difference between reading a book and listening to an audio book is subtle, but something I’d like to explore in more detail as I listen to more audio books. I’ve recently got a copy of 1984 in audio book format, and since I’ve actually read that already, I’m looking forward to being able to compare the two versions/experiences.
How about you, do you listen to audio books? Like them, love them, hate them? Let me know in the comments!
November is a week away! That means I will be busy noveling all month for National Novel Writing Month. On top of that, I am the Bookdriver-in-Chief for the Pittsburgh region’s Great NaNoWriMo Bookdrive. If you are in Pittsburgh, check out the spiffy website I made and donate some books to the cause! If you don’t live in Pittsburgh, watch out for the book drive in your region!
I will not be updating much with straight up commentary, though I will keep everyone posted on my word count and noveling adventures, although I’m sadly not writing metafiction this year. If you check the comments from the entry on NaNoWriMo as a fandom, you’ll see that it spawned two other entries on the same topic!
I did finish my metafictional travel memoir and plan to post on that next week. Also in the works is a post on Wrimo SushiMustWrite’s metafictional Nano novel (though of course I have to read it first, and I have not had a chance to do that yet).