I don’t really remember how I learned about NaNo. Maybe I saw some people talking about it on Facebook and decided to give it a Google, but however it came into my sphere of influence, I’m really happy that it did. This year I’m going to attempt my first NaNoWriMo!
For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, which is November. The idea is that you push yourself to write a 50,000 word (at least) manuscript by the end of the month. It doesn’t have to be great, in fact it won’t be. It just has to hit that word count. Obviously it’s a first draft so you’d be going back and revising, but the point is that you will have a full first draft of a novel written by you. It’s pretty intense, but when it comes to actually writing I can pump out over 3,000 words a day no problem (suggested daily word count while participating in NaNo is around 1,667 I think). My issue is sitting down and actually doing it.
I started writing very young. For as long as I can remember I’ve enjoyed writing and telling stories, and I’m very lucky to have grown up in a house that encouraged that. My Mom is a librarian and read to us religiously from before we could even understand what she was saying. Today I love talking to her about what books we’ve recently read and what to check out in the future. One year for my birthday I asked her to just buy me a bunch of books that she thought I’d like, and the result was one of the best birthdays ever! My Dad is a musician, so in addition to books and stories in the written word, my siblings and I have grown up with stories in music as well.
Art has always been stressed in my house, and when I told my parents I wanted to go to school to get a pointless degree in film, they barely argued. In fact, I don’t remember any arguing at all (over my topic of study, that is). They just said, ok. I decided to focus on screenwriting with minors in English and art history, and throughout my college career I expanded my writing to not only screenwriting but also journalism, short stories, plays, sketches, copy writing, and non-fiction. The one thing I lost touch with was fiction.
With NaNo, I’m hoping to achieve a few things. I want to stick to an intensive writing schedule that really gets me into writing every day, or as many days a week as possible. I want to start thinking differently about writing to help improve my skill overall. As someone who writes in script format most of the time, this is going to really bring me out of my comfort zone. I also want to re-learn HOW to write prose fiction. Screenwriting stresses the actual writing very little, and while writing blogs and articles for publications can allow for some creativity, there isn’t a whole lot of flexibility there. Prose is really where I can work on crafting phrases and play with words. It’s where the writing actually counts. I’m not used to that, so this will be a good exercise.
I also want to connect with a larger writing community and perhaps find some people in my area that I could work with, and who knows, maybe I’ll enjoy the novel I write and decide to continue to revise it. Maybe I’ll even think about trying to query it to agents and publishers…it all depends on how my NaNo experience goes.
I’m a little nervous to be diving into something I haven’t attempted since I was perhaps seven. More so, I’m just really fucking excited. I’ve been playing around with an idea for a script for about a year, but I think it would work really well as the plot for my first novel attempt. And at the very least this experience will just allow me to learn my characters and story better, so if the novel is a complete bomb I can always take what I learn and write it as a feature screenplay, as it was intended to be.
My working title is Where We Once Swam (taken from a short story I wrote over the summer, but baring no resemblance to it). Here’s my current synopsis:
“Sarah McKinley is pushed by her psychiatrist to return to her family’s lake house in the Arkansas Ozarks – the site of a horrible accident that killed both of Sarah’s parents and caused her retrograde amnesia. Sarah hopes to regain memories of that last summer with her Mom and Dad, but she ends up uncovering much more than that. She learns that her parents may have been involved in something very dark, something that she must now finish.”
It’s in the Mystery/Thriller genre (my fav), and will get pretty damn dark. I’m attempting to write it in first person, but I’m having a hard time deciding if that’s best. It will mostly be in the protagonists’ POV, but there will be a special chapter here or there where we switch for a bit to a different character. I like the idea of first person to help with the suspense, but I’m wondering if third person limited would be better. We’ll see! I have issues with POV because in screenwriting you write in present tense third person, so I have no options or practice with anything else.
Don’t be surprised if you’re a friend of mine and I ask you to read some of my manuscript and ask you dumb questions like which POV feels better. If you’re into mystery/thriller books (like Gone Girl by my major influence Gillian Flynn) then let me know if you’d be interested in reading my manuscript down the line when it’s ready for eyes. I’d love feedback!
Anyway, if anyone else is doing NaNo, please let me know and we can help each other through. My page is here: http://nanowrimo.org/participants/jocelyn73c
Feel free to add me as a writing buddy. I’m probably going to use this blog to post certain excerpts from my NaNo attempt as I go, so any feedback on here is certainly welcomed. I’m pumped!