The month of November in the States is National Novel Writing Month. As the site describes, “On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.”
I've noticed this event mentioned on Twitter over the years, but I've never given it a shot. Writing a novel isn't something that I've particularly wanted to do: I've wanted to write short non fiction, short fiction and screenplays. When I think of ideas for stories that I've had over the years, most of them have been short stories, poems or short screenplays. In my teen days I came up with a few ideas for feature-length scripts. Some were dreadful. Some weren't too bad.
- An insomniac bank manager's gifted, straight-arrow assistant exploits her employer's weaknesses to rob the establishment.
- A con man rips off a logal gangster and has to fend for himself, and as the turf war escalates we see how, through each of the characters, the seven deadly sins are alive and well in contemporary society.
The rest were abysmal. As I got older, some of the ideas I had were sharper and more defined, and I eventually got around to writing them. One short script was published on a fiction website some years ago.
There's a story I devised in 2004 about a graduate who, after becoming increasingly disillusioned with the British job market, finds himself inducted into a world of terrorism, illegal immigration and shady backroom politics. I called it Once Upon a Time in Great Britain. I finished it some time in 2006, but kept tweaking it for years after. I printed a copy of the script some time in 2010, and then my Macintosh G4 died a slow agonising death and a lot of my files- that manuscript included- vanished.
I've still got the printed version, though- it's clunky and is hampered by “writer voice”- all the characters sound like angsty, 20-something me. It's also 17,000 words and 45 pages long, only half the length the ideal screenplay should be. Added to this, although it's short, it's also over-complex. When I took the synopsis to feedback group Writers Connect they described how they struggled to keep up with the plot, and noticed the few female characters are underdeveloped with minimal screen time.
I made notes on this, and somewhere in my cupboard is a printed synopsis covered in scribbles. I need to dig it out, rewrite the synopsis, retype the original screenplay and then work on rewriting it based on the advice I've received. And that is what I'll do, all before 1st December.
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