My past experiences with NaNo typically has me running out of steam about now. Instead, I just shifted into second gear.
I didn’t enter last year (and experienced stabs of guilt all month long). The year before however, I thought NaNo would be a great opportunity to work on a story idea I had for a romance novel.
I believe that last sentence represents two important reasons why my story lost steam well before the end of the month.
1: I no longer write romance stories.
2. I started the month with only a story “idea”.
I think these two factors are significant, even if only significant to MY writing process — because preparation is KEY. The demands of producing a considerable daily word count almost certainly requires a well thought out plan, and more than just an idea.
I also needed to tell a story that continuously challenge me, one that would motivate me to face the computer each and every day.
Please don’t misunderstand: some of my best buds are romance novelists AND I’m still a consumer of the works of Nora Roberts, J.D. Robb, Suzanne Brockmann, Jayne Ann Krentz, Karen Robards and many others. I only mean that I am not THAT story teller. My cynical world view and skepticism about a happily ever after likely interferes with my ability to convincingly portray those ideals in written form.
On the other hand, expressing and creating stories about righting wrongs, seeking justice for the little guy, the pursuit of justice are right up my ally. I keep reflecting on one of many lessons that struck a chord in me during my VONA workshop earlier this year. I workshopped a cozy mystery featuring two elderly retired teachers as amateur sleuths. The facilitator asked why this story needed to be told and why was I the person who had to tell it.
The intent behind the question eluded me . . . at first. I just thought it was a cool story. The characters are smart, lively extremely bright and capable women. Their age was their asset not their liability. They demonstrated that the world needed to move past stereotypes about elderly black church ladies; age does not prohibit their ability to contribute meaningfully to society.
Those characters, even without my conscious awareness of it, are reflections of me, my values, my ideals and perhaps even my struggles. The two characters are lifelong friends but diametrically opposite in personalities . . . nonetheless, they are different aspects of me.
The things writers choose to write about and how they tell their story offers insights into the person behind the story. Think about some of your favorite writers, especially those that cross genres in their work. Harlan Coben is a good example. In addition to his Myron Bolitar series, he has written multiple stand alone fiction novels, thrillers, mysteries as well as YA. Different genres but if you look carefully, you’ll see similar themes: reflections of Mr. Coben.
I have two friends who are presently working on memoirs. They are figuratively riding an emotional roller-coaster every time they sit in front of their laptops. I feel their tension, angst, their struggle with truth, in whatever form that might take. I feel it whenever I am near, even over the phone or by email. I admire their courage to write their stories. The memoirist has to present a balanced picture. Nobody wants to read a story of you bragging about how great you are and how easy your life has been, beginning with your mother in labor for only five minutes before you popped out and then you entered college by the time you were eight.
No, life is balance, it’s not all good nor bad. People fall down and get up. They have admirable traits and less-than- stellar aspects of their characters and behavior. We’re not courageous because of a lack of fear but because we channel that fear and use it to overcome. Success or failure is the outcome or measure of how well we channeled on any given day.
So, from the facilitator’s point of view, I’m writing a fiction novel but I’m also writing a memoir, I’m just not openly admitting it.
But it’s there. I see it in my female protag who continually reveals herself as a badass, despite having to endure the consequences of past poor choices. My male protag, my warrior, guardian and protector who uses those admirable traits to hold people at a distance. AND my villain, who has allowed envy and insecurity to warp him into an amoral monster.
(Not that I’m an amoral monster . . . this is fiction, after all).
Nonetheless, I fall down.
But I get up.
Today’s word count: 1670