Monday, November 5, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012 - Yeah, About That...

By all appearances, this year's National Novel Writing Month is going horribly for me. I've got about 333 words, jotted down hastily in a small notebook, which is well off the pace of 1,667 words per day. For my first WriMo last year, I had signed up as early as possible, and had a solid outline with which to work. This time around I didn't sign up until October 31st, and up until this past weekend I didn't even know which story I wanted to write. Unlike last year, I'll be participating in NaNoWriMo while also continuing my work as a reviewer. Despite all of this, I'm more confident in my chances of success. The Reason? 333 words is actually ahead of my personal pace; last year, November 5th was the day I scrapped over 6,000 words and started from scratch.

Starting over isn't something I'd recommend. There's no shortage of arguments against it (my favorite can be found here, courtesy of author Jamie Todd Rubin). For me, however, it proved to be the best decision I made all month. I had begun the WriMo in earnest, with a full head of steam, and was surprised by how quickly the word count increased for me. But by the fourth day, I developed serious misgivings about the direction in which I had taken things. The tone was off, the characters flat, and nothing about what I had written seemed capable of shouldering the burden of the concepts I'd hoped to explore. True, NaNoWriMo is, strictly speaking, just an exercise at writing consistently toward the goal of 50,000 words. My heart wasn't in it, though, not with the story I'd begun shaping. I didn't see how I could possibly have continued. So I didn't.

Instead, against all advice to the contrary, I started fresh. The first sentence I wrote convinced me I had done the right thing. The first attempt had the feel of a YA novel; the second was darker, mature. Two dimensional characters were renamed and reworked into entities that seemed to think and act for themselves. The plywood, high school theatre backdrop became a fully functioning, dystopian metropolis. I will admit, catching up with the pace and reaching the goal required a concerted effort which culminated in a burst of nearly 16,000 over the last three days of the month. But they were exhilarating days, at the end of an indescribably exciting month, a month I'm all but certain wouldn't have happened without the decision to reboot my story.

This year, owing to an inordinately difficult run up to November, I wasn't sure until the last moment whether or not I'd participate. I'd seen many discussing it on Facebook and Twitter, and Mr. Rubin's posts on the subject made the prospect more and more tempting. While discussing my hesitancy to sign on for another harried month of writing, a colleague raised an interesting point: How could I not? And somehow, that was all the argument I needed. So I registered this year's novel, and then set about the task of getting all my literary ducks in a row. Rebooting worked wonders last year, but it's not something I want to do again. I may only have 333 words at the moment, but it's more than I had at this time last year, and this time I'm sure they're words I can live with.

Click here to view my NaNoWriMo profile page

Friday, November 2, 2012

Post Script - Falling Under

Reading and reviewing Falling Under, Canadian playwright, stage actress, and novelist Danielle Younge-Ullman's debut novel, was a far more personal experience than any other review thus far. As someone who has struggled with agoraphobia in the past, I found myself all too easily identifying with Mara. Given her interpersonal struggles in dealing with friends, partners, and parents alike, the empathic comparisons didn't end there.

One aspect of the story which hit particularly close to home was Mara's role as an artist. Though her efforts to develop her talents in the backstory portions of the novel were fascinating, it was her work in the present that really stuck. Mara's story is a playing out of the age-old dilemma between creating works that sell versus creating works that satisfy one's artistic passions. I believe this is something with which creatives of any milieu can relate. 

In facing and overcoming both these artistic challenges, as well as the emotional obstacles which bar her path to happiness, Mara becomes a truly inspirational example to any young adults striving to find themselves, and their way, in an increasingly troubling world. 

The experience of having read Falling Under, and watching Mara's fears and heartache wreak havoc on every ounce of her being, will no doubt stay with me for years to come, as I imagine it will for anyone who ventures to read it. It was a privilege to be given the opportunity to review the novel, and an honor to have had the chance to interview its author.

My review of Falling Under 

My interview with author Danielle Younge-Ullman