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.
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.