Tuesday, November 8, 2011


November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for those who are saving the extra syllables for use in their literary efforts.

The idea is to write at least 50,000 words of a novel over the course of the month, which averages to about 1,667 words per day. It’s not too late to start, but you’ll have to put in some overtime.

I am not participating, since I am too much of a sissy for serious fiction. As we all know from high school, a book cannot have literary merit unless terrible things happen to any characters worth liking. Whether an honest farming family slowly starves on the way to California or Death Eaters slay a loyal house elf, the good guys have got some suffering coming.

I have taken a few creative writing courses, but my short stories always chickened out when I reached the possibility of anything important happening. I had just made up lives for all these people, and it didn’t seem right to invent them a bunch of pain.

As an alternative, then, I am celebrating NaNoITrToWriInFoGrMo by presenting excerpts from the Novel I Tried To Write In Fourth Grade.

Most of my memories from that year involve the ambitious plans I had for my world-changing contribution to literature. I worked on it during every writing hour and rainy-day recess, filling double-spaced pages and occasionally leaking previews to my teacher so that she could enjoy the privilege of witnessing my genius.

As a basically show-off-y kid (who totally grew out of that), I wanted two things to surround this epic: Absolute secrecy, and universal knowledge that I had something super amazing and was keeping it to myself.

I installed a homemade lock on my spiral notebook, limiting access to only advanced masters of paperclip-and-string technology. To foil those remaining wily invaders, the first few pages were filled with warnings and cunning deceptions.

The problem was that my security measures worked. No one cared about seeing my story, and no one from school could access its hiding place under my dresser. The only audience left was my little brother, so I had to whet his appetite for my sweet, sweet, secret magical prose. I “accidentally” revealed my storage spot. I started leaving the notebook in the middle of my floor, with a hair across the pages to detect tampering. I held little readings of the most impressive parts and dropped tantalizing hints about the plot.

The plot in question was the combined product of my all-consuming Dog Phase and roughly twenty viewings of Babe, specifically the parts with the border collies. I also saw a local production of Camelot and discovered the dramatic potential of betrayal and revenge.

WARNING: Top secret material below! Continue at your own risk! If you tell anybody, I WILL KNOW AND GET YOU!

“Blaze was a one-year-old workdog on the McLoftlen farm….He had a happy life on the farm. Hearding seep, and chaseing rabbitts, birds, and butterflies. But one day he was afraid that it would all come to an end—much too soon for Blaze.”

He is out herding one day when a duck brings him a threatening, anonymous note about how the farmers think Blaze is responsible for a recent sheep killing. Sure enough, the farmer’s wife tries to shoot Blaze, but fortunately she is as bad at aiming as she is at maintaining a consistent personality from page to page.

As Blaze recovers, his most feared enemy dog, Mordred, shows up in the field. An epic dog battle ensues, featuring the grittiest action I could conceive: “First Mordred jumped at Blaze, then in a burst of fury, Blaze would jump back. This went on for almost an hour, and then Mordred slyly slunk away.”

The farmer and his wife tend Blaze’s wounds while producing authentic country dialogue such as, “I reckon’e got in a fight with a’other dawg.” Farmer McLoften calls his neighbors about their dog bully, and they hang up on him.

…and with this cliffhanger finish, I stopped writing my masterpiece and forgot what else was supposed to happen. Probably a lot more jump-fighting and apostrophes.

Despite all my careful buzz cultivation, chances are good that I just got distracted. The next thing in the notebook is this piece of fine art:
I remember spending most of 5th grade on these and stussies. That specific distraction is the biggest threat to NaNoWriMo, from what I hear.


  1. It was a dark and Stormy Z S S S \S/

  2. That's awesome. I found an old story I had written, which started with an orphan trying to get on the bus, only to be rejected on the basis that there were "no orphans allowed."

  3. Poor orphan! I saw a comedian on TV once who did nothing but read stories he wrote in elementary school, and the material was terrific. Kids make either no sense or far too much.