A book in a month?

This is write-a-novel-in-a-month month, according to somebody on the web who is trying to do just that. The goal for those who are devoting this November to producing a work of fiction is to write 1,300 words per day. That would result in a 50,000 word novel in the space of a month.

This is not such a dumb idea. Writing is more work than inspiration, and the biggest battle is sitting down and getting to work. Thirteen hundred words in a day is reasonable, and it just goes to show how just a little work per day will produce big results in a short time.

No guarantee, of course, that the end product is worthwhile. But most aspiring writers, including myself, spend ten times more time dreaming about the Great American Novel they plan to write than they do actually writing it.

In actuality, one's first effort is usually mediocre or worse. However, you learn far more from making mistakes than you do from sitting around waiting for inspiration to strike.

This might be something I will do when I get to Arizona this winter. (Notice how I am already procrastinating.) I have been thinking a lot about the story of my grandfather lately. I have tried to write about it in the past. As I mentioned below, the working title is The Grandpa Years. Rather than a straight biography of Grandpa, it would be a memoir of the 25 years I spent on the nursery as his right-hand man, of sorts.

Part of me is not eager to take this on. It is a little close to home. My Great Aunt Olla says she sincerely hopes she is gone before the book comes out. There are many people living still who would inevitably be a part of the book. I see no benefit to inadvertently causing hard feelings in the name of writing what I see as the truth.

I understand why people write fiction: They can deny that any one character is anybody still living. They can change things to disguise any reality which might hurt those they love. Most of all, they can lie with impunity--and really let fly with what they think. If nothing else, they can put their most provacative thoughts in the head of a character in their novel, thus ducking responsibility for the fallout.

Also putting me off the task: The ever-growing feeling that I am but walking in Grandpa's footsteps. I own the nursery he started. Every time I look back at Grandpa, at his writings, at the early days at the nursery, I see myself. When I started shaving my head close, people said I looked like him. The columns I write that people seem to most like--they say, "You sound like your Grandpa." After I sang and played an old gospel hymn for a funeral last spring, a neighbor came up to me and said, "Thanks, Little Melvin!"

Well, when one likes to think that one is plowing a unique path in the world, it is a little disconcerting to find that you are a prisoner to patterns laid down by a previous generation! For instance, Grandpa published a book that he sold himself. So have I. Grandpa send out monthly mailings to a list of about 100 people. I now write a daily weblog which might someday have 100 visitors per day.

On top of that, Grandpa's life was not entirely happy. His effusive and enthusiastic public demeanor concealed a dark, brooding side which nobody could penetrate. Only those closest to him saw that part of him. A truthful (and interesting) memoir would have to include the difficulties, memories of which are not fun to revive.

Yet, I sense that I will someday delve into the task of writing a memoir about the years I spent with Grandpa. If nothing else, it would be an interesting psychological exercise. If it turned out to be readable, so much the better...I think.