Wednesday, November 15, 2006

It's still National Novel Writing Month!

Two weeks ago Claymore reminded us that it's National Novel Writing Month. Then he did the supremely brave thing, and wrote:
Back on task. The start of my novel. Ahem.. here goes...

The Bard reached for the bottle of Scotch, and got it. Captain Jinks had offered some of his prized "south side" Madeira for the occasion, but the honest Scott diplomatically and with all politeness common to the day, requested the stronger libation. All ears in the dimly lit wardroom were attentive to the Bard, who seemed to steel himself for the very tale that he was about to relate. Indeed, when he finished just two hours later, every officer of the USS Nightingale - commissioned August, 1778 - had his face set in grim, dry-mouthed determination. Two days later, without orders, they would haul anchor and slip out of Norfolk on a Northeastern course. Little did the crew know as they sailed past the phosphorescent shoals of the country they fought for and loved dearer than life; that the next time their ship would navigate these waters it would be many hundreds of years hence.

And then, the moment that always makes me cringe. He asked:
What do you think of my paragraph above? I just started writing that's what came out. Do you think I have any potential as a writer?

The answer, my friends, to be perfectly and bluntly honest, is that I really have no clue.

I first encountered this phenomenon decades ago, in my previous life as a musician. There are some people who are brilliant creative talents. There are other people who have no apparent talent of their own, but are brilliant at recognizing the talents of others. And then there are a very, very, very few people who are blessed with both gifts.

Me? True story. Back around '76 or so, I had a tenuous friend-of-a-friend connection with a guy named Chris Moon, who ran a little recording studio over in Minneapolis. One day somebody -- I want to say Chris, but it was probably Jeff -- showed up with this demo tape by this teenage kid from Minneapolis, and I've got to tell you, I just hated it. Too much weird noise, too much Chinese water torture funk percussion, too much bad Imitation Hendrix guitar. And the kid's name: Prince Rogers Nelson. What the hell kind of name was that? No, I didn't want to meet him. No, I didn't want to hear anymore of his tape.

So now that you understand the level of perception at which I routinely operate: yeah, sure, I think Claymore has potential as a writer. I've seen better opening paragraphs; I've also seen many far worse. I could critique this paragraph in terms how I would have written it, but that's beside the point. I think the real answer to Claymore's question lies in this counter-question: what does the next paragraph look like?

Remember: it's easy to start writing a story. The hard part is carrying it through the middle and getting to the end. And being able to get to the point where you can write "The End" is what makes you a writer.