What I did in November, and at a Ramones show in 1984

Last month I decided to finally start writing the new novel that’s been fermenting in my mind for a while. I had this great opening scene in mind and everything … but once I actually started writing it I was confronted with how much more fumbling and awkward my words often are when they’re not just in my head anymore. I figured I could use an outside force to keep me motivated so, five days into November, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month and swore a solemn oath to crank out 50,000 words.

I did NaNoWriMo once before, way back in 2002. That experience was amazing — I would even say life-changing, cheesy as that may sound. Up until then, every time I’d start writing fiction I’d always get discouraged by how lame my writing was. I somehow expected it to come out great the first time–the awful feeling when it didn’t was overwhelming, and I’d figure today’s not my day, or this isn’t the piece, and put it aside. But in November 2002 I felt all that stuff and kept going anyway. It was exhilarating! And eventually, with a lot of work, that 50,000-word outburst turned into an actual nearly-completed novel, something that I am really proud of.

This time around, I knew I could hit the word count, even with my five-day delay. (I type fast.) It was not as magical as the first time around, but it was still a great experience. There were a few parts where I went YES! But there was also a lot of crap. So, we’ll see what happens … something will come of it, but it may not resemble this “novel” much at all. Which is fine! I don’t think anyone should expect to come out of NaNoWriMo with something that anyone would want to read on December 1st. It’s definitely one of those “journey, not the destination” things. Even if I secretly hoped I’d end up with something frighteningly awesome.

By the way, how is it that I just now realized that “November” shares its first four letters with “novel”? I don’t think that’s why they picked that month, though. If it was, they might have named it something like “Novelmember,” and that just sounds wrong.

Even aside from all the novel-spewing, November was swell. I met a bunch of local writers who are super nice and supportive! I saw Nicole Hardy, Kevin Sampsell, and Sherman Alexie read at Hugo House with a couple of swell friends! And I had a sweet Thanksgiving with family, followed by a day-after leftovers party at a friend’s house. Four of them, including the one hosting, had grown up in various parts of Central and Southern California, but I don’t think any of them knew each other then. There was a discussion of shows they had seen and clubs they had frequented, and two of them discovered they had been to the same Ramones show at the Rollerdrome in 1984. An original ticket stub was produced, along with the Clash’s autographs on an airplane barf bag (my friend lamented that it wasn’t the real Clash, only Joe Strummer, the other guys were fake Clash). I grew up in Northern California and am a few years younger, but I went to see the Ramones at the Kabuki in San Francisco that same year. I don’t have my ticket stub, but I do have a bunch of paper menus that my friends and I scribbled on.

I made a list of the songs they played. This was during the phase where I decided it looked cooler to write dates out the Euro way, with the day before the month.

That reminds me, another thing I did this November was karaoke. I sang “The KKK Took My Baby Away.” I am still baffled that they had this as a choice. It’s actually a pretty good karaoke song. Afterwards, a drunk woman named Tex staggered over to me and said “Man, I didn’t know they took anyone’s baby away!” Then she did a medley of “Hello, I Love You” and “Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This,” which mostly consisted of her holding the microphone out to various audience members.

But back to the Ramones show! We also used those menus to make fun of people.

Many of our comments concerned this one guy who must have been wiggling up a storm.

And some of them dealt with other pressing matters.

And now, things are getting all Christmassy. What can I say, I’m a fan of presents and cookies and tinsel and merriment and all that stuff (except for candy canes, blecch). And Christmas music, which I know is hated by many, but if you don’t you should wander over to Mr. Hayes’s blog for some choice selections. There’s even a bunch of depressing Christmas songs, if that’s more your speed. My current favorite is the rockin’ one, since it has a version of “Do You Hear What I Hear” that is actually good. (Even liking Christmas music, some songs tend to suck and that is one of the worst offenders.)

So I will be spending much of December listening to festive songs and gettin’ merry … and will take another look at that Novelmember business with fresh eyes in the new year.

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