National Novel Writing Month 2015

Yes, I am doing it. I am taking the NaNoWriMo challenge this year. I have never done NaNoWriMo before. I heard about National Novel Writing Month 2 years ago, but I didn’t consider participating because I already had a project that was in the last stages that needed my complete attention. This time however I am ready to give this thing a try. The only thing is, I am not sure if I am going the write direction with what I am writing.

Obviously, NaNoWriMo takes all ones creative concentration during November. It goes without saying that you need to have discipline to complete 50,000 words in 30 days. One thing I haven’t read in any recent blogs about NaNoWriMo is how to discipline yourself and stay the course with the idea you are writing.

Photo by Chris Legat

Photo by Chris Legat

The story that I am writing is one that I began to think about 5 years ago. I really concentrated on the novel 3 years ago and began to plot an outline and develop characters. I knew for a fact after publishing my first novella my next project would be the one I have dreamed about all this time. Then something happened. I knew I had a good story. I knew there was a market for it. The thing is, I realized I hadn’t yet found my unique voice.

I have about 10 other story lines waiting to be turned into something, but I didn’t want to touch those yet either. I began to think about characterization, and what I could do to better my craft of making realistic likable characters. I decided to write a novel on a subject I know very well: drug addiction and mental illness, and I began a new story from scratch. I started the project simply as an exercise to teach myself some of the things I needed to improve upon. I planned to finish the first draft of the book and move on within 3 months. Almost a year later, I am finally done with the beta reader manuscript. Last week I put it in the hands of a few colleagues and turned my attention to the new book—my dream book—but then it struck me: what if I am still not ready to write my dream book.

The story is a hard sci-fi novel that takes place in Africa (a place I have never been), where they speak French along with over two hundred different languages (I speak only English). My main character is a strong, smart female lead (which I am not), and it involves a viral outbreak (I never paid attention in biology class). The story delves into human psychology (which I also know nothing about except for what I have learned about from my own experiences and those close to me), the subject of memory recovery induced by natural psychotropic drugs (which I have done drugs but never the real ones I plan to write about), oh and did I mention the story is a geopolitical thriller as well.

Therein lies my problem: how to stay the course when I doubt my own personal knowledge. I have done a substantial amount of research on these subjects. I think I know them well enough to splice them into my narrative without them being a distraction—you know, fake it till you make it. Still, I get an inkling that I should hold off on writing this book until I go to Africa, take psychology and biology classes and experience the psychotropic drugs native to Africa that I am writing about.

Last year, I was having a conversation with a writing friend about the same issues I am dealing with now. He told me:

Just write it! Get it out before you lose interest or life gets in the way.

Sound advice that I aim to abide by.

Another thing I didn’t consider: a friend I know from my writing workshop explained to me that there are forums from around the world on the NaNo website. She suggested that I put out a call for help if I have any questions about how to entertain an idea when I don’t know the details of it.

I had never thought of that, and I am glad to give it a try.

So, here I am at the beginning of my journey. Wish me luck. National Novel Writing Month begins at midnight on November 1st.

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

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