What I said before about not knowing a thing about the NaNoWriMo community and how I had a feeling that I was in good company?
Welp, turns out I was right.
It was mentioned to me that after I signed up, I should spend a few moments in NaNo’s forums to get better acquainted with the people and the culture. Kind of a big deal, because I’m so anti-social that even the possibility of engaging with another human being on something so passive as a message board, makes me want to go hide in a cave somewhere.
It’s like I’m going back to school. Walking around the quad with a map in my hand, only occasionally glancing up to see where I’m going, and noticing a few hundred more people just as fresh faced and confused as I am. All of us nervous, excited, and eager to get started on a new adventure; The Freshman Syndrome.
Look, years ago, I thought I was on a career path. I thought I knew what I was doing, and I was so sure that I would never have to be in a position of starting over. If I could find my 18 year old self, and would look him square in the eye and tell him…
“It’s all about starting over.”
“Nothing in life is certain,” I would say grabbing the front of his pizza-stained Watchmen t-shirt. “Not even the path in front of you. You will stumble, you will fall, and you will get back up many times. Don’t shut yourself off, or shut yourself out. Keep yourself open to possibility, work hard. And for the love of all things holy…do not, I repeat, do NOT be afraid or ashamed to stop and ask for directions.”
I hate asking for directions.
By extension, I hate asking for help. The ego takes over when driving blindly into unknown worlds like…Lower Manhattan, Upstate Vermont (“wait, we’re in Canada now? How’d that happen?” True story), and a blank word processor at the inception of writing a novel. I hate asking for…anything, actually. I have this (points finger at head and swirls it around in a jerky, clockwise motion)…thing where I compulsively take down my Amazon Wish List at the beginning of every December, because I feel that it’s a burden for other people to look at it for some reason. I hate asking. Which is why it was kind of a big deal for me to ask for help renaming my story.
I started with calling this story “Fearsome Critters” which is also the title of an ancient compendium written by Henry H. Tryon, published by Idlewild Press in 1939. The book is written with the dryest of Samuel Clemens-style humor about mythical beasts found across the country, with an emphasis on the ones found in the Northern wilderness. Even though the book is in the public domain, I still felt that it was a better option to go with a different title. I liked it, I liked it a lot. And even though my project is loosely based on this text, it still felt wrong to use it.
Whenever I sit down and start writing, constructing a title of whatever I’m writing comes much later; it’s usually the last thing I do before hitting the “Publish” button. I signed up for NaNo, and immediately starting filling out my dashboard, my bio, my avatar, as if I’m decorating my cubicle. Then, it came time to put up or shut up when they asked if I was ready to “submit my novel”; basically establishing an intention “for realzies“for my book. I’m used to doing that last, now I need to do it first.
(Crumples up campus map in frustration) Can anybody tell me where the cafeteria is?
On a forum conversation titled, “Suggest a Title – 2015 edition” I found many people in the same boat I was; we have a plot, and outline, no title. I also noticed a greater proportion of NaNo vets and participants who were more than eager to help. One of which, helped me. Which is surprising, because I was resigning myself to getting buried and lost in the conversation.
This person sent me a list of title ideas. Most of them were great, but the one that stuck out the most was “The Nature of the Beast”. My book is set in modern day America, and it has a menagerie of mythical creatures running around. The story has a lot to do with war and power, and human (and not so human) rights. I thought the title was perfect, so I thanked her, and now I’m running with it.
Oh and also, I had to make a cover. Actually, that’s not true. The process of cranking out this whale would not have been impeded with the absence of a book cover, so let me rephrase. I had the option of making a cover. For a guy who spends an inordinate amount of time finding online Photoshop tutorials, a wet-behind-the-ear approach to design, and a tendency to proactively procrastinate, it was just the thing I needed to keep me occupied on a Friday morning.
They say that bad cover = bad sales. And, I’m inclined to agree with that. It’s a start. It’s sort of what I’m looking for.
I’m sure that my honest but ugly attempt at a cover that doesn’t suck, might be scrutinized by a host of professional designers. And that’s okay. I look forward to it. At the end of this thing, around the time when I send this out for editing for the 4th or 5th time, and I’m comfortable with what I’ve written, I’ll again be asking for help. I’d like to think that I know what I’m doing when it comes to designing things. Then again, I’d like my book to sell, so sometimes leaving things in the hands of professionals might be a better option.
Today is the first day of November. The starting pistol has been fired, and everyone is shuffling forward.
I’m submitting my word count later tonight, but before I go, I’d like to know if you have any suggestions for the cover and/or title.
Thank you, and see you soon.