Winning Nanowrimo the Jack Burton Way

I promise not to blather too much more about National Novel Writing Month before November arrives, but this blog post demanded to be written. Seriously, it came in here and started breaking all my furniture. It couldn’t be negotiated with. My hands were tied, at least until I started typing. Anyway.

Nanowrimo can be a trying, exhausting, crazy time for a writer. Whether you’re just starting out with your first book, or a salty veteran participating for the sheer joy of putting off other work, Nanowrimo is a challenge, and challenges call for inspiration. And who’s more inspiring than Jack Burton, the fearless, hapless, meat-headed protagonist of the John Carpenter’s cult classic Big Trouble in Little China? Well… probably a lot of people. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take heart from some of Jack’s gloriously Eighties dialogue.

“Are you crazy… Is that your problem?”

I love these softball questions. Yes you are, or you wouldn’t be participating. Next.

“Like I told my last wife, I says, ‘Honey, I never drive faster than I can see. Besides that, it’s all in the reflexes.'”

Jack Burton might not drive faster than he can see, but face facts — you might have to. This November, write from the gut. Trust your instincts. Don’t second-guess yourself or get bogged down in detail.

“I’m a reasonable guy. I’ve just experienced some very unreasonable things.”

When the heady mid-November mix of exhiliration and sheer terror hit, family and friends may come to find you unrecognizable, and eye you warily as you twitch from caffeine jitters and narrative hysteria. Assure them that your wild-eyed stares and frantic muttering are at least slightly unlikely to persist beyond November. At least until National Novel Editing Month, am I right? Haha! Oh God.

“Son of a bitch must pay!”

As hard as you try, your Nano-novel will not write itself. Believe me, I’ve tried it a dozen times. I’d watch the entire run of Supernatural and come back to the computer only to find the blank page still sitting there like an asshole. Son of a bitch must pay, or, more accurately, son of a bitch must sit in the chair and meet quota if son of a bitch doesn’t want to end up crying. Not that I’m calling you a son of a bitch. I’m sure you’re a very nice person.

“I’m gonna tell you about an accident, and I don’t wanna hear ‘act of God,’ okay?”

Accidents are going to happen. Your hard drive crashes, your word processor mangles your chapter into something resembling Atlantean Senzar, you sneeze during an attack of diptheria and when you wake up your gritty paranormal werewolf mystery is now about Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Don’t panic and roll with the gleeful groin-punches Nanowrimo will undoubtedly deliver.

“This is gonna take crackerjack timing, Wang.”

Nanowrimo is all about time. Time to write, time to sleep, time for coffee, time running out. You just have to swagger bravely into the enemy stronghold and find the central junction box. Of your story. Or your soul. Or something. Look, these metaphors seemed like a good idea at the time, okay?

“You can go off and rule the universe from beyond the grave. Or check into a psycho ward, which ever comes first, huh?”

Beware yon hubris, ye mortals, your book cannot be both a touching May-December romance betwixt Haight Street bohemians with leukemia and a sci-fi epic about immortal vampires starting their own fast-food franchise. Or can it? You’ll never know until you try, and November is the one time of the year when you’ll be surrounded by writers who will never judge you, because they’re too busy making their own bad decisions. Make it work for you.

“Well, ya see, I’m not saying that I’ve been everywhere and I’ve done everything, but I do know it’s a pretty amazing planet we live on here, and a man would have to be some kind of FOOL to think we’re alone in THIS universe.”

Just remember that when the earth quakes, and poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake, that you’re not alone. There are other writers all over Twitter, the blogoverse, and the Nanowrimo forums. Together, let the sound of your panicky screams form a soothing chorus of fellowship.

“Feel pretty good. I’m not, uh, I’m not scared at all. I just feel kind of… feel kind of invincible.”

Sooner or later, you’ll hit your stride. Your ending will lumber into view over the far horizon of aching fingers and dying brain cells, and you’ll feel the thrill of knowing that the words THE END are now within your grasp. Embrace it. Flex like the vainest of bodybuilders. Bask in the beatific glow of impending success. Then get over yourself and get back to writing.

And that’s it. Whenever doubt strikes you this November, just keep in mind what Jack Burton always says? (All together now… “Who?” “Jack Burton, me!”) Ol’ Jack always says… “what the hell?”

P.S. If you love (or love to hate) 80s movies, you might also check out my joyful lambasting of Dreamscape. Also, when the Nanowrimo web site finally gets its buddy list act together, feel free to add me.

And this November, shake the pillars of heaven.

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