Friday, December 4, 2015

National Novel Writing Month: Epilogue


One of my library NaNoWriMo people sent me a lovely note today, and she asked if there were anything different this time from my other writing experiences.

As far as NaNoWriMo goes, this was my third time and I think it was the easiest in some ways. I suppose that means I am learning as I go along, but I recently heard a quote from someone (sorry, can’t recall from whom) who said that you don’t learn how to write from writing a novel. What you learn is how to write the novel you are writing. And I think that is the NaNoWriMo thing. You write the novel you are writing by writing that novel.

One difference this time was that because of the library project, I had committed myself to be writing at the library for an hour-and-a-half at a specific time three days a week.  About half the time, someone else joined me and we worked alongside one another. That was new and I found it helpful but not in a way I can explain.

There were, however, two things that were different this time that were probably unrelated to NaNoWriMo itself. One, I was going to the gym most mornings and putting in an hour on the treadmill. That wore me out and energized me at the same time. In the past, I got up, had breakfast and sat down and wrote for a couple of hours. This time on non-library days, I sat down to write after working out and taking a shower. On library-days after my shower, I fiddled around with other things until time to go to the library. I thought that might distract me, make it harder to write, or slow me down; but it didn’t.

Two, this time I went to Starbucks for an hour or so to write most – not all – afternoons. On days that I didn’t write at the library, I often didn’t write in the morning at all, and just did the afternoon session. I had always thought I would find that I could not concentrate at Starbucks and such places. I found, however, that the writing went along as smoothly and rapidly there as in my own office and at the library. (Maybe it was the coffee and the extra caffeine in the air?) 

My John of the Cross mystery was not a NaNoWriMo project, but it is the one novel I had already written. Thirty years of life in the monastery, much of it spent researching and teaching about John of the Cross, provided all the background information I needed for that book.

This time I did some serious preparatory work. I came up with a basic story based on a single line that had floated through my mind some time back. I sat down and wrote out a list of characters, names, qualities, a bit of backstory for each one. I created a setting and based it on a real area in Texas, but not on a real town. I did a tiny bit of research on pecan growers, just enough to give a bit of verisimilitude to the narrator’s background. That was about it. I started with scraps, like squares for a quilt, and an idea of the pattern. But it came together in the process and it did not turn out the way I expected, neither in the details nor in the full scope – partly because the full scope was always a bit out of focus. But it came into focus with a certain inevitability. A rightness. Whether anyone who reads it, should anyone ever read it, will agree with that, I have no idea.

When I did my Wicca novel for NaNoWriMo, I did a lot of preliminary research, not on the storyline or plot but on things having to do with Wicca and neo-paganism. That was partly so that my treatment would be at least a little bit credible but also so that it would be respectful of that tradition. The Wings novel did not need that kind of research. That made it easier in one way and more difficult in another. Easier, because I didn’t have to make sure things were somewhat accurate, although I hedged my bets in the Wicca novel by saying up front that the Wicca in the book was not representative of any specific neo-pagan or Wiccan group’s beliefs or practices. Harder, because I couldn’t use a lot of researched information to pad things out. This novel had to be more story- and character-driven.

On my own project this year, as I have mentioned before, I reached 50,000 words on November 18. I don’t know whether to credit that to preparation, exercise, coffee, the library writing time commitment or to the companionship. At any rate, I am pleased with the draft and think it may actually be a good book. If and when …

And that’s what I told her. And now I have told you.

1 comment:

Mitchell is Moving said...

You continue to be an inspiration. I continue to not get moving!