Apologies To Robert Frost: The Two Roads Ahead

Today I feel like a tired bubble, floating on an autumn wind in the golden California sunlight. I feel iridescent and indecently chill. I feel like it’s all been worth it.

Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

This writing challenge has not had a destination, but these past few weeks have still felt like progress, straining out all the half-assed cliches that have been coagulating in my mind over the years so that I can maybe find something new to say.

There hasn’t been a goal other than the daily milestone of hitting “publish” on the blog, and I’m not used to working that way at all. I have been writing each day so that I can go to sleep, live another day and write about it again the next night. It's in direct opposition of my achievement-oriented self, and it's refreshing.

I didn’t set an end goal for myself, and now that I’ve gathered some momentum, I want to try and use it to my advantage. I have two ideas.

NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month is in November, and as I was canoodling with the doodles in my journal, I found myself writing something that scared the bejeezus out of me: I want to write a novel. And I started to feel drawn to this structured challenge.

In the past 32 days, I have written somewhere in the neighborhood of 35,000 words. NaNoWriMo’s goal is to write a rough first draft of a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. So, it’s not too far-fetched. Here’s the only issue: I don’t know anything about writing novels. Like, I have only written three short stories in my life and I remember not being a fan of the experience.

Fun words? I got you. Dialogue and character development? So difficult. Story structure and proper pacing? Ugh, what?

I’m being a bit dramatic here, but I do feel conflicted about the whole idea. I mean, we’ve got about a week left of October and I’m over here thinking that I only might have an idea for where to start.

My idea for a short story that I just decided could be a novel

I’ve had a few ideas for short stories over the years (including a scary story that I still actually would love to tell), but one stood out to me as having the potential to be a full novel.

I’m going to try to explain it here, but no guarantees it’ll make sense. It seems like a little bit of a tired tale, but hey—there's nothin' new under the sun, amirite?

In a dystopian future, the world’s governments unite and build an artificial island out in the middle of the ocean. Every human is set up on a points system where they can receive and lose points based on their legal compliance, their social responsibility, and just their general interactions with the world. If they lose all their points without doing anything good to gain them back, they go in for review. They get therapy and whatnot, then get one more chance to be a good person. If they get to zero points again, they’re shipped off to this island to live out the rest of their days.

The island isn’t fully terrible: you have to work menial jobs, but you do get fed a few square meals a day and get a roof over your head. You do have to deal with all the other “detractors” from society though, and it’s not pleasant.

The story focuses on two characters, Sophie and Mike, and their experiences going to the island. Sophie, a young woman, was sent seemingly by mistake—she received no warnings or no second chances, and had always been an upstanding citizen. Mike, a middle-aged man, is proud that he’s finally going. He’s worked hard to lose his points without resorting to flat-out crime his whole life: he purposefully doesn’t contribute, is rude, lazy, selfish and a huge freeloader. He doesn’t know why it’s taken this long.

Sophie despises Mike, but he’s the only one who will listen to her talking about how big of a mistake this has all been, so he becomes one of her only friends. Mike is waiting for his wife of 30 years to come join him, since they were actively trying to get to the island so they can forget about paying bills and being responsible humans. She’s nowhere to be found, and the islanders have no way of communicating with the outside world.

The story follows Sophie as she tries to find out why she’s on the island, and Mike tags along to uncover the mystery of why his wife still hasn’t joined him.

And that’s it! It's a step into the science fiction realm, which is a realm I’ve been interested in for the past few years. I think I may still have some reading and work to do around what it takes to build a plausible world, and how to bring characters to life without pumping them full of clichés.

I’ve been talking this up in my head for a few days, and up until just about an hour ago, I thought that was what I was going to do next with my writing habit.

But then I remembered my wheelhouse

I know there’s something to be said about going out of your comfort zone, but going from writing haphazard blog posts to writing a novel with no plan or knowledge on how to do so could very well be a prescription for failure. I mean, I’ve proven that I can write every day for 30 days, but writing about the same thing with a goal of actual completion?

It could be done, but I’m still so fresh into my writing habit that I don’t think it’s a great idea to scale Everest after just hiking Runyon Canyon every day for a month.

So tonight, as I was talking it through, I remembered the tiny detail of my life where I got a degree in Creative Writing with a focus on Poetry. P O E T R Y.

More like poe-try not to overthink this.

So my second choice for my next challenge is to try and write a poem every day for 30 days. No huge emphasis on edits, I’ll pick out some styles and some poems to maybe mirror, and get the ol’ iambic pentameter rhythm flowing through my fingers again.

This challenge would force me to read poetry regularly, and wouldn’t have the same critical goal as NaNoWriMo. Plus, there’s a chance that I could still pop a blog post up now and again (because I’d probably steer clear of sharing my daily poems—unless that’s something you’d be in to).

I haven’t come to a conclusion yet, but I am thinking that a poetry challenge would be a more comfortable place for me to start, at least at this moment, since I’m still a tender little newbie to the daily writing practice. The poetry option is hanging out in the outfield of my comfort zone, and the novel option is hanging out at the bar a few blocks outside of my comfort zone getting a nice buzz on.

Either way, I'll be here to tell you about it when I make a decision. Here to talk your internet ear off all evening.

Cheers to Sunday nights and next steps!