Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Just One More Scene: NaNoWriMo 2014

"Good novels are written by people who are not frightened."--George Orwell

This month I've finally been doing something I meant to do for the past two Novembers: NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. Before this year, writing my dissertation took too much of my time and energy. When I started writing the diss, I had grand plans of working on it in the morning and still writing 500 words of fiction a day. Maybe it would have been a good thing to do--maybe it would have been creatively stimulating or restoring--but I tried for like half a week and I couldn't manage it. At the end of dissertation work-time, my brain was wrung out and I wanted nothing to do with any Word document. All I wanted was a hot bath, a cold beer, and an episode of Buffy. (Or to sob silently in my car outside the grocery store.)

This year, post-diss, I promised myself I'd really do it. I have a novel outline that I created several years ago. I even have a couple of chapters of it written. But this November I felt like working on something newer: an idea I just had, about a female kraken harpooner on the high seas. Bascially, part Moby Dick, part fantasy novel in the vein of Robert Jackson Bennett's City of Stairs, which I recently read and adored. Harvanna is similar to Bennett's main character in some ways: she's relatively ordinary on the surface, suspicious of magic, and constantly has to prove herself in a male-dominated field. 

Working on this project has been like no other writing project I've done. I don't have an outline. I don't have a plot. I don't even really know what the main conflict is yet. I have a character I love, a setting that fascinates me, and an inciting event. From there, where will the story go? I have no idea. It's frightening; it's the author's version of flying blind. The control freak in me finds this intolerable. The child in me finds this exciting. I generally live somewhere in between those two. 

I haven't been writing 1,667 words a day (the required amount to reach the goal of 50,000 words mentioned on the NaNoWriMo website). And I've taken a couple of days off. But I'm still writing. Here's what gives me hope. When I finish one scene, I have an idea of what the next scene might be, and nothing more. Just the next scene. And usually it's something I'm excited to write about. When I get too freaked out about it, I remember Orwell's quote above, and take courage. I remember Anne Lamott's story of her friend Veronica, who prays for guidance, "one spot of illumination [that] always appears just before her feet, a circle of light into which she can step." The next scene is my spot of light.


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Genie Leslie said...

Kate, that's awesome! Aaron and I both decided to do NaNoWriMo around October 20, after hearing a coworker talk about it. We've both "failed" in the sense of not at all writing 1,667 words a day (I mean really, you can't just jump into this at the last minute and go from rarely writing to completing a novel) but even so, I've written more this month than in the past year and it's been incredibly fun and inspiring just to focus on writing every day. I haven't written every single day, even, but I've been reading and jotting down ideas and outlining and just in general, thinking more creatively than I have in a long time. I really love it. I'm glad you're doing it too, because most people don't know what we're talking about when we mention NaNoWriMo.