Sunday, October 31, 2010

National Novel Writing Month

As I write, National Novel Writing Month or Nanowrimo has already begun in some parts of the world. During this month (November) writers of all types, ages and sizes, professional, amateur and beginner, will sit down at their computers and try to pound out 50,000 words - aka 1 complete draft of a novel. They will not edit, back track, add in things or strive to produce the perfect piece of writing. Instead, they will strive steadily onward towards their goal leaving spelling mistakes for later and making notes in the margins. They will do this despite work, family and other obligations and will have various strategies to get through the month; some will lock themselves in a room while others plan write-ins with other nanoers, go to coffee shops, sit in hotel rooms or keep notebooks beside them 24/7 to jot down those all important ideas to type up later. And each week, in an attempt to keep the energy flowing, pep talks from various well known authors will arrive by email in an attempt to spur everyone on. These are always a joy to read. 

I did nanowrimo in 2008 and met my goal of 50,000 words. That novel, The Trade Off, still sits in my drawer as I wrestle to find the time to revise and edit it. As a completed draft the plot and characters are there, but it's sails are full of drafty holes in need of mending. The novel as a whole needs to be fleshed out, trimmed and polished before it can vibrantly come to life as something I can set on a course to be (hopefully) published. However, The Trade Off would not be the same book if I'd pounded it out in a year or two instead of in a month and that would be sad because then I might not have met Dee. 

Dee is my favourite character in that novel and she was a surprise. She's a petite, strawberry blonde with a degree in economics and absolutely no common sense (and I mean none). She comes into the novel on a canoe trip with one of the main characters, Mira. During the trip we find out she's pregnant and asks for Mira's help in providing a place to stay while she sorts out her life. This puts Mira in the predicament; she must decide whether to be truthful or supportive about this. That aside, Dee didn't come to life for me until halfway through the book when Miguel, another main character, meets her at the coffee shop where he works. Miguel's having a rough day, no one else has shown up to work and he's frustratedly trying to be pleasant about it. While he's wiping up tables after the 10 o'clock coffee rush Dee strikes up a conversation with him and offers to help out. At this point Dee literally takes over (and becomes her own character) and Miguel dubs her 'teashine' on account of her hair and the fact that no matter how busy the shop is she can somehow manage to take care of customers, bus tables, organize things AND polish off a pot of tea (when no one is looking). However, despite the need to revise this story I find myself once again entering the Nano site. 

This November I'm will work on my Young Adult novel. I think it's the many Words of the Day which are half buried in it's nondescript pile that made me decide now was the time to begin it. Words like Labyrinthine (which refers to it's structure and possibly a piece of the plot), masks and fly (both figuratively and in the form of concrete nouns) and now Osier Alley. I chose to use Osier Alley in the novel as a piece of the setting this morning as a result of what Healthbird has told me about the Basket Willows, how they come to be and what they are used for. 

This novel was, in it's birth, going to be a short story for my children. After the first 750 or so words I stopped, unsure where I was going with it or rather where it was going as it had abruptly turned into a very dark piece. And even though I've now learned more about the story and have an idea of what I'm doing with it and where it's going, much of the book still remains a shroud of rags in my head as I await its complete form. 

But, this time, as I take up my keys to begin nanowrimo I'm not going to follow the 'no edit' rule. I want my work this month to be a solid, vibrantly coloured, draft firm enough to continue to build upon in the coming months. I have no expectation of 'finishing' the novel during this month, but instead have challenged myself to see how much I can get done. I will keep updating my word count as I go and watch the colour spread across the progress bar as it creeps towards the end and it will be a bonus if I reach the tipping point where my writing picks up so much momentum I can't type fast enough to keep up. In 'The Trade Off', this happened when I hit 40,000 words; it will be interesting to see at what point this phenomenon happens again. 

Photos: Top - taken in Baked Café. Left - Main Street, Whitehorse, YT. Bottom - Old dock pilings left from where the steamboats used to dock to collect passengers and wood at the turn of the century. Whitehorse, YT.

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