cc licensed flickr photo shared by ex_magician

Wow, does anyone remember 43 Things? It was one of the early social networking apps, and to me, still a nifty idea. You list 43 things you want to do, it connects you with other people who have the same goal or have completed it. You can post your success or ask questions of people with the same goal.

I’d not been there is well over 2 years, but I did remember tossing out the goal “Write a Novel”. It was not “publish a novel” or “work as an author”, it was just write one. I had no idea where to start so I didn’t because I told myself I could not do it.

That was the same thinking I had about running, but by committing to a goal where there is a deadline (like run a marathon on a given date), and putting it out there- well that works for me. So in November, I decided to do the sprint marathon version of writing by signing up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), where you set a goal of writing 50,000 words in a month.

I think that was almost as hard as a marathon. At some point I was padding it with a lot of extra adjectives, but I ended up clearing the 50k mark before the end of November (it might have been the last day). No one sees your stuff, that’s not the point- what they do is provide the encouragement, tracking, and other structures to help you reach the goal.

When I was done I put the damn thing aside. It was a holey (not holy) draft, rampant with typos and plot fragments hanging in the wind. It took more than another 4 months before I could even make about 2 or three edit sweeps.

And then I thought, what do I do with this thing? I thought about sending it to some friends, like friends who know how to write, but what is that message when you get an 80 page PDF with “Hi, Here’s My Novel!” That seemed like a horrible expectation to drop on friends, to make them feel obligated to peek at it and then respond with something nice.

And then I let it sit another two months.

Which brings me to today. I decided to just post it online. Not with any expectations that one nutcase might read it, or Oprah might find it by accident. No, the point, and the scary peeking over the ledge part, is just to say- I put it out there.

So it’s down there, hiding meekly at the bottom of this post.

Maybe. If I get the guts.

But first, a little bit about it.

I almost started NaNoWriMo in a vein more like writing here. But that felt… chicken. So I aimed for a story unlike anything I’ve written ever.

And then I flashed back to a vaguely formed idea I had like 15 years ago, when I was riding a bicycle every day to work from Scottsdale to the Maricopa office in Tempe. Everyday, I would ride through a busy intersection at 68th Street and McDowell Road, which was also the intersection of the cities of Scottsdale, Phoenix, and Tempe. And I thought about a story involving two strangers, one on a bicycle, one in a car, one male, one female, who had a fateful interaction at this intersection. But I had in mind something where the character genders were vague– so that when the “incident” occurred, it would reverse your expectations. And then I would shuffle the names and personalities and re-tell the incident again, same place, different situation.

Since I know the area well, it was easy to visualize places, and use local references, though I took a few liberties with one or two places.

So that’s what I started with. As the first quadrant started flowing, I felt there would be “theme” or emotion that would be played out in each story- fear, love, humor, etc, with the main characters being opposites on a spectrum. I also added pre- and post dream sequences, which are a cheap ploy. I make a cameo in each story.

I ended up having to make a chart of the characters and plot focus, because I started confusing myself- this was my sketch (I ended up changing one lead from “Pat” which someone said was predictable as an ambiguous male/female name, to “Terry”).

That’s about all I have to say about it.

It’s done.

And I don;t know if I really have the energy to go back to it again- I’ve always said that writing is very hard work (it’s not just sitting down and tap-tap-tapping it out), and I know first hand now. I’ve heard that published authors re-write and re-write and re-write again and again (and again).

Oi. I might want to take up running again.


One off the 43 Things List.



I said I would share it.


What was I thinking?


I uploaded it to Scribd. the document sharing service, where it can be read online or downloaded as a PDF (MS Word did something funky with the header, adding 4 lines, so it made the thing like 20 pages longer than my original).

Here is Four Way Intersection….

Four Way Intersection

And I am ducking out of here.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. OK Downloaded, I never finished my NaNoWriMo novel, maybe I’ll get back to it. Yours will be my test of reading on my iPod while waiting for lambs :-)

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