Thanks to NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, I have just written a novel. 50,330 words of fiction. I can call myself a novelist.*
I’ve wanted to write a book since I was a little girl reading them by the dozen. For years I’ve skirted around writing fiction. I’ve been a journalist, a features writer, a tech writer, a playwright, a tutorialist, a blogger – to varying degrees of intensity and success.
But writing something book-length eluded me until this month. It was a delightful challenge and I am very proud of myself for having completed a draft within 30 days – 26 days, actually, since I finished a bit earlier than the official deadline.
I had some happy surprises and discoveries while I spent the month writing.
Memories unlock themselves. My new novel is young adult story set in a high school. While visualising the action in the story, I remembered a lot of lost details from my own high school experience. And used them.
Characters come alive. After a couple thousand words, the characters were acting on their own. I only had to watch them and write down what they were doing and saying. This happened to me when I wrote a play, too, so I shouldn’t have been too surprised. But I was delighted.
Continuity is tricky. I think I have a pretty good ability to hold details in my head, but am sure that there are things I’ve gotten wrong in my book. Inconsistencies like student council meets on Tuesday, yet I just wrote it was Thursday and here they are in a meeting. Hmmm. And did even Nick run for student council 20,000 words ago? Why is he in this meeting now?
Characters fight back. All the times I had “writer’s block” it was because the characters didn’t want to go in the direction I was trying to send them. Once I spoke out loud to my main character and negotiated a compromise, quickly ended the sticky scene, started a new chapter and writer’s block was gone.
Coffee is necessary. My Inner Critic can be pretty loud, but if I give him a lot of coffee, he quiets down. Plus coffee makes my fingers go faster. Coffee is good.
Characters are unpredictable. Very often the characters did things I didn’t anticipate. I’d start out writing a chapter about homework and suddenly someone got suspended. These twists were never planned and always moved the plot forward in interesting ways. I like those surprises.
Friends want to read this. At least half a dozen people have asked me if they can read it. That is the scariest part of the process! Though I probably won’t publish it in physical form, after some editing, I will make a pretty PDF for you to read on you iPad or Kindle.
* The Inner Critic would like to disagree: I am not a Novelist because the novel it isn’t finished yet. It is only a draft and even when it is finished it probably isn’t worth reading, and even if it is good the chances of it getting published are about .01%. I think I need to give the Inner Critic some coffee now.