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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Winner!

The month of November was big for me.

As you can see from the widget over on the right-hand side of my blog, I successfully began and finished my very first novel during National Novel Writing Month. It is 20 chapters and 55,502 words. As with almost any novel that was written during only 30 days, the characters are inconsistent, the pacing is a little wacky, and there are a thousand other things wrong with it. But I wrote every word of it.

The really surprising thing about writing my novel was how easy it actually was. I was helped by the fact that I had two 12-hour days which I spent at the dermatologist’s office. I estimate I wrote close to 15,000 words during just those two long days. But so long as I forced myself not to worry about quality, writing the novel was easy and fun. I really did feel like the story was just sitting there, waiting for me to tell it. I’m proud to say I didn’t have writer’s block once, which I’m sure was just beginner’s luck.

I do think that there are some little nuggets of okay writing in there, too. When I got to the end of the novel, I realized that some of my characters had experienced growth without my really planning for it, and some consistent themes had developed without my trying too hard.

At the moment, I am still entertaining the idea that I will come back to the novel and try editing it, come January or so. Writing a novel was certainly a good and worthwhile exercise. I think editing a novel might be a similarly worthwhile experience. But we’ll see. I’m still experiencing the high of actually writing 50,000 words in a month, so things might be different once that dissipates. January is a very cold month.

The other major thing that happened in the month of November is that I accepted a job offer at a new organization. For a lot of reasons, this feels like the right move for me to make, and I’m very excited about my new job. I start at the end of December, so I will be kicking off 2011 with a bang.

A novel and a new job. It was a big month. I actually can’t remember the last time I had a month this big.

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Finally Young Adult

I was a voracious reader as a child. And I am a voracious reader now. But I wasn’t much of a reader during the years in between, my high school and college years. At the time, I felt like I got my fill doing my assigned school reading, and when I did read just for the fun of it, I was most likely to read something I had already read.

During my high school years in particular, I spent the vast majority of my free time online. I was reading, but I was mostly reading the X-Filesaholics message board and fanfiction and other similar fandom-related media. At one point, when the internet got taken away from me for a few months, I dissolved into a direction-less mess, with no outlet for my obsession, and with nothing to do. I remember my writer-aunt saying to me, “Melody, didn’t you used to read?”

In particular, even though I actually worked at a library, one thing I never read was young adult fiction. It never even occurred to me to read YA fiction. I would guess that the YA renaissance hadn’t quite blossomed like it now has, but to be honest, I think I probably thought the YA books were beneath me. I judged the books by their frilly pink covers and I scoffed, because I had much better things to do. In fact, as I recall at my library, hardly anyone read the YA books. I think I would have felt embarrassed to check one out.

Only now–now that I have a mortgage and a job and I have given up on foolish ideas of LOVE–have I finally given in and begun to enjoy the all-you-can-eat buffet that is young adult fiction. I feel like now I have the jaded maturity to truly enjoy the escapism that it offers. I’m not sure that it would have provided the same enjoyment had I read the books during high school. At that point, depending on the book, it would have been a bit more like reading about reality–both the painful realities I was experiencing (acne! heartbreak! social exclusion! awkwardness!) and the exciting realities that I was too boring to enjoy for myself (parties! alcohol! actual interaction with boys!).

I recently realized that I’ve been at my current job for four full years, which is longer than I was in high school. It was kind of scary to realize, because my memories of high school are so distinct and meaningful, while these past four years of my life have sort of run together into an indefinite blob. I think it’s exactly that which makes YA books so fun to read. Reading them allows me to remember the time in my life when life was so new and exciting, and when every day seemed consequential.

So far this year, of the 94 books I’ve read, 62 have been young adult novels. And last year, of the 39 books I read, 23 were young adult novels. Now I’m taking it to the next level. During National Novel Writing Month (starting tomorrow, November 1), I will attempt to write my own 50,000+ word young adult novel. I’m making it “easy” on myself, in that the central issue in the book is adoption, and adoption is something I’ve thought about basically every day anyway for the past two years.

For the next 30 days, I won’t update my blog much, if at all! But you can see how I’m doing using the word count widget over in the sidebar doobly-doo. I’m really not sure whether or not I can write a novel, even a really bad one. But… here goes nothing!

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I am particularly excited for my next two 12-hour sessions at the dermatologist’s office, because it will give me a pretty much perfect opportunity to work on my main project for November.

This year, I am participating in NaNoWriMo, and this year, for the first time, I am COMMITTED to finishing my novel. BY GOD, IT WILL HAPPEN.

I’ve made two attempts at novel-writing recently, and both times it didn’t work out. A few years ago, I attempted to do Nano and I didn’t get past a couple thousand words. My heart wasn’t really in it, and I became quickly overwhelmed by the story I was trying to tell.

This past winter and spring, I started working on another novel. The idea for that novel came from a dream I had, and the concept seemed just crazy enough to be entertaining and whimsical, without being totally stupid. I wrote around 14,000 words setting up the story, and then I realized that I was spending all my time setting it up because I had no idea where it was going to go. I gave up sometime in April.

I have a good feeling about this November, though. Third time’s a charm! This time, I have a fairly clear vision about where the story will go from beginning to end. For me, I think this may be key. Unlike my past attempts at novel-writing, several of the characters have come to me without much difficulty. More than the other two novels I have tried to write, I feel like this story already exists, it’s just my job to get it down on paper.

Admittedly, I have hopes that when I am finished with this novel (because I WILL finish it!) on November 30, it might wind up being something that’s worth editing quite a bit and trying to turn into something legitimate. The first thing, though, is to finish it. And then I can go from there.

Sometimes I feel like if I were to be successful as a writer, I might experience and find the fulfillment I’ve been looking for, but I really don’t know if I can do that. Never mind sprawling epics like a recent favorite of mine, The Historian. I can just consider the YA category, which my upcoming novel will be. I just finished reading Charmed Thirds by Megan McCafferty and I was blown away by how real her depiction was of the college experience and its constant transitions. It evoked so many of the feelings I had while I was in college. Reading it was intense. I couldn’t put it down. I don’t feel like I could ever create that myself.

I do know that when I was working on the previous novel in the spring, I felt more hopeful than I had in a long while. So I’m hopeful, again, that this November I can bring some of that optimism back.

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