The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 29, 2012

Joe Hadsall: Challenge accepted for November novel

By Joe Hadsall
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — Holy crap. What the heck am I getting into?

Next month, I’ve promised to start a major writing project: A novel. I’m going to take part in National Novel Writing Month.

And I’m freaking out.

In a nutshell: National Novel Writing Month (which goes by the terrible nickname NaNoWriMo) is a group that offers support and encouragement to writers by challenging them to finish a rough draft in November. “Thirty days and nights of literary abandon,” they say. If you can write 50,000 words by the end of the month, you “win” and get a nifty certificate.

Despite the abundance of positive pick-me-ups and energetic encouragement infused across the website, it sounded like just the kick in the pants that I needed.

I know I can write fiction. I’ve done it before. I have several short stories sitting on my computer, and I plan to release them on Smashwords in the near future.

I also have a great mentor: Suzann Ledbetter, an author and Joplin graduate, who I met during my time in Nixa. She gave me my first “pigstickin’” Ñ because I didn’t run away screaming afterward, she said, I might be able to see this writing thing through.

And when I found out that Erin Morgenstern’s “The Night Circus,” a favorite book of The Lovely Paula Hadsall and mine, was written during a previous year’s NaNoWriMo, my participation was sealed. So, I signed up and registered with the closest regional group. Unfortunately, it’s based in Springfield, so it’s not easy to make gatherings.

I felt good about it in September, when I let my idea bake around in my head. I thought I could do some research throughout October and get the wheat to grind in my novel millstone.

October is almost over, and I haven’t done very much research. I guess I figure that can come later.

But man, I’m starting to have doubts about whether I can do this. 50,000 words in a month. Thirty days. That equals about 1,667 words a day. And I have a 3,500-word head start in three chapters.

But I have no idea where this story is going. I have some characters thought up and some general notions about where my story is going, but I have no idea about the ending.

And there’s also books to read and video games to play. I just got “The Twelve” by Justin Cronin, and “Assassin’s Creed.” I’m scared because I know me, and I know that my motivation comes in sudden gushes, not steady streams. With distractions like those calling, who knows?

Surviving the tornado didn’t give me a firm sense of “seize the day.” It feels more like surviving every day Ñ I’m still dealing with cleanup aspects, emotional damage and other crap that the winds stirred up and that refuses to settle.

That means I don’t have the newfound sense of purpose and direction that others have found, I guess. I cherish my hobbies Ñ from practicing card sleights to mashing controller buttons Ñ because they help me FORGET about all this crap.

But I do have a dream, and thanks to the growing respectability of e-publishing, I have a way to see it through. All I have to do is do it. And there’s a lot of people who want to see this happen. TLP, friends, family, colleagues Ñ there’s a lot of people who have my back. I’ve been wanting to write a book since I was in my 20s. Now that I’m pushing 40, it’s about time to get started, for real.

So, I’ll do it. I’ll report back in a month to let you know if I win.