November Is More Than Novels And Moustaches
And other answers to unsolicited questions
“Should I try to write a novel in November? Some of my friends are doing it. What do you think?” — Novel-writing Nate
A few of the people on your Twitter timeline you’ll be muting in November will be writing novels in November and humble-bragging about it on social media. It’s part of a thing they invented a while back with a weird nickname that has produced a few good books over the years. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Whether the time constraints are helpful to people who aren’t already writing fiction, I don’t know. Maybe the social media competition aspect is helpful to some writers, that’s possible.
I’m pretty sure the lady who wrote The Hunger Games wasn’t doing a word count and a happy dance after every day she wrote those books. That’s what people who are suffering through an assignment do. And no one said novel-writing should be fun. Writing is hard or else the world would be mostly books and decidedly fewer people.
And in general I am against these meme-y projects online. I’m just old and bitter, not yet having made much progress on my novel, The Coldest Night of the Year. I’m still definitely writing it, I’m just taking a year off to research heavy drinking. I’m doing slow, harrowing research. But what the hell do I know? Go for it. Write that novel in a month. What the Hell.
I think it would be more useful to be writing a screenplay. Or, even better, a TV Pilot. You can always hire some real writer to ghost-write the movie-tie in. I’d say TV has more of a future than writing boring books. They gave Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize in Literature. They won’t be coming back to America for a while. And by then they’ll probably have added TV Shows to the Nobel Prize prizes list. And subtracted “Peace.” Good TV shows do more to keep people home and peaceful than any prize.
My key to writing a good November novel: Keep it simple. We don’t need another sprawling coming-of-age-tale about a dysfunctional white family. We don’t need any super-smart kids who are obviously written by adults. Start with a grabby premise and add in a bunch of twists. And skip the adultery. Adultery is a lame plot device. Like the gun that shows up in chapter 1 will be shot in chapter 13 sooner or later the adultery will be found out. And so what if fictional characters get busted having affairs? I won’t have to go to their house and have to help them move their stuff to a new apartment. No matter how much I like Huck Finn I’ll be mad at him for riding a raft down the Mississippi River with anyone else but Jim.
You don’t have to have a finished product by November 31th. Just something you can give to an editor. An even better result might be that you’re not finished by the end of November. Go get ’em, writers! I’d say that I’ll follow your progress on social media, but I’ll probably mute you.
“I was thinking of doing that No Shave November thing. Should I try it? Some of my friends are doing it.” — Hairless Hank
What is it with November and memes? The days are getting darker and colder and I guess we just need an excuse to keep on living. We have to trick ourselves into agreeing to continue to exist. People grow beards to raise money for cancer. I don’t know how the money is involved. Do people bet them that they won’t be able to grow much hair? Or that the beard-growers will get itchy and have to shave it off by November 10th? Possibly. New beards do get itchy.
You could just give a big check to Whichever Cancer Non-Profit you prefer. We don’t have to dump ice water on our friends or snort cinnamon or whatever. We could just give people money directly, without the memeing. But whatever. You gave. That’s cool. Helping people is nice.
The key to growing a nice beard: just leave it alone. I am the one constantly trying to get the thing completely even. And making it even more crooked. Crooked is not a good look. You’re not the one who has to look at the patchy thing growing across your face all month. I’m also big on touching the thing, brushing it, trying to make it as soft as possible. That’s a giant waste of time, too. Stop screwing around with it. Just let it do what it’s going to do. Which is perhaps nothing. But still.
Definitely don’t dye it. Gray hair looks cool and distinguished. I think gray hair is a good look for everyone. When I see gray hair I think wisdom. Let it go! Let it grow! Just don’t get any of your facial hair in my Thanksgiving dinner.
Jim Behrle lives in Jersey City, NJ and works at a bookstore.