He Seemed to Pick the Right Word Up on the Point of His Pen…

~ G.K. Chesterton, Robert Louis Stevenson


Lately, I’ve been wanting to work on my novel — a novel set in a fantastic alternate version of the Caribbean, wrought with foul magic from sea monsters and Sirens alike. In wanting to work at this, I’ve picked up a book I haven’t read in a really long time as reference — Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. As Eoin Colfer states in the introduction to the book, reading this story as a writer is certainly much different, but no less exciting. I found myself countless cool nights sitting in my bed with the window open, reading aloud in the pirate language as best as I could, and laughing every single time I realized how silly I sounded. I often wondered what my neighbors — whose door is near my window — thought if they heard me speaking the way Billy Bones’s speech was written.

“[Billy Bones’s] stories were what frightened people worst of all. Dreadful stories they were–about hanging, and walking the plank, and storms at sea, and the Dry Tortugas, and wild deeds and places on the Spanish Main. By his own account he must have lived his life among some of the wickedest men that God ever allowed upon the sea, and the language in which he told these stories shocked our plain country people almost as much as the crimes that he described.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island

So far, reading and writing has been keeping me afloat. Summertime for me, while lacking college credit hours, is filled with work hours. All for the better — there are bills to pay and cafes to visit, and restaurants by the river or lake to sit outside and enjoy, after all. Weirdly enough, Treasure Island isn’t the book that got me wanting to write my own pirate adventure.  But lately this book has been kind of an inspiration. I see some of the traits of these characters in each of the more recently written pirate novels I have read so far. Little by little each author pays his homage to Treasure Island. I am beginning to see Jim Hawkins in my protagonist and Long John Silver in my antagonists. It could be the major driving force for why I am sitting down to write over two-thousand words per day —

Ahem. Oh! That’s right. This post wasn’t going to be about Treasure Island, per se. It’s more of an announcement, hehe:

Camp NaNo

I have entered Camp NaNoWriMo as incentive to finish drafting my book FINALLY after years of letting it stew in my head. My daily average should be 2,581 words per day in order to finish in a month. I’ve been consistently writing more, and the statistics say I should be done, at this rate, by July 29th. Who knows?

Now, Camp NaNo is all about writing first. You can’t edit anything you haven’t written. That’s not to say going back and editing what you have written this round isn’t fair game. Go for it. Only, the more you edit the less time you give yourself to draft, and the more time you give yourself to doubt your own abilities. Let’s just call any sense of self doubt Mr. Arrow for a moment:

“Mr. Arrow, first of all, turned out even worse than the captain had feared. He had no command among the men, and people did what they pleased with him. But that was by no means the worst of it, for after a day or two at sea he began to appear on deck with hazy eye, red cheeks, stuttering tongue, and other marks of drunkenness. Time after time he was ordered below in disgrace.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island

Mr. Arrow, much like self-doubt, is really really bad at commanding anything. One’s an officer of a ship, and the other is all your fears about your work enveloped into one word. So order what doesn’t work away. Disgrace your fear. Pick up the pen. As terribly difficult as that sometimes can be, you have to keep going.

Anyway, the point of this “idyllic writer’s retreat” is to finish your draft. People who go in all crazy thinking they can produce a perfect book in a month are delusional. Most of writing is revision, after all. I know this. Still, there’s the pull to want to go back and fix things. I’ve often debated if I should scrap this draft (yes, right in the first week of Camp NaNo) in order to write a new one wherein certain characters use their point of view in each chapter to tell the story. Can’t do that right now — I’m eight tiny chapters in. I need to focus on telling the entire story first, in order to later go back and show it via new character perspectives.

I suppose the good news is I have passed the 11,000 word mark according to the verification tool for Camp NaNo this year and according to my targets set on Scrivener. This is the most I’ve written towards this specific story without straying into the back stories of characters in years leading up to the events of the book. It just seems like such a large project, that I can’t possibly finish it in a month. It feels overwhelming, especially when I sit at the keyboard and can’t seem to figure out what to type next.

“Before us, over the tree tops, we beheld a great field of open sea to the East. Sheer above us rose single pines, black with precipices. There was no sound but that of the distant breakers, mounting from all around, and the chirp of countless insects in the brush. Not a man, not a sail upon the sea; the very largeness of the view increased the sense of solitude.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island

Sometimes writing is a chore. It’s not all flowers, rainbows and inspiration falling like drops of sunlight. No — sometimes it’s cold and difficult, like walking on wintery concrete barefoot, teeth chattering and hands shivering all the while. Sometimes it’s not fun. It’s real work, despite what everyone and their brother would have you think. You can’t just write a book in your spare time — when it comes to really writing — well, you live your life in your spare time and write the book as your work. Sometimes that’s a lonely notion. But another good thing about Camp NaNo is these online cabins of 12 people who are fighting the same battle. There’s a chat box where we can air our grievances and brainstorm with should you ever feel the beginnings of writer’s block. (Or, some form of writer’s blerch, as it feels more like.) I think it’s a great system. It’s kind of a push to just write. And possibly, to not give up.

I mean, today was the fourth of July. I have two newly adopted kitten/monster/beast-things in my house, and one has been incredibly sick as of late. I spent today caring after her, running errands in the rain, and cleaning various things that I can’t clean on days when I work my eight hour shifts. So after this busy and hectic day, I sat down to write at 9:15. We need to post our word count for Camp NaNo before midnight. I posted mine at five of, and managed to write 2,755 words. I think I am learning that if you make time to write, anything is possible. Hell, maybe I will have my whole book drafted by the end of July at this rate.

“I now felt for the first time the joy of exploration. The isle was uninhabited; my shipmates I had left behind, and nothing lived in front of me but dumb brutes and fowls.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island


3 thoughts on “He Seemed to Pick the Right Word Up on the Point of His Pen…

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