Friday, December 6, 2013

NaNoWriMo: I Did That is an organization that runs writing workshops for youth. Their title event is the National Novel Writing Month, run every November. You sign up and commit to churning out a 50,000 word first draft of a brand-new, never-before-worked-on novel.

So, I did that. I did it for the reason I put down in my NaNo Author Info page:

When I was small, I thought that authors were like gods, generating full-fledged books straight from their minds, like Athena born from the head of Zeus. Then I noticed that some books are very very badly written, and while it shattered my worldview, it meant that authors are human and with hard work and luck, I too could be an author someday.

I'm participating this year because I have a fear that hitting 30 without seriously working on a novel will mean that I'm not actually a writer but just an ordinary working stiff. I turn 30 in December. The challenge is on.

It was not difficult. I created an outline in October, bought a battery-powered word processor for $10 on eBay, and typed like a lunatic during my commute to and from work every day in November. I wrote on the computer while the baby was napping on the weekends. I wrote by hand in the bathtub. And on November 28th, I hit the 50k mark, and paused for a breather.

Emotionally, it's been a little difficult. In the wake of a sudden death in the family, things are strained at home. Revisting many of the lowest points of my childhood for this writing project left me drained, and struggling to keep upbeat and to maintain order in household containing a grieving spouse and tantruming toddler.

But it's satisfying. This is a creative process that parallels my work as an interior designer, from concept to design development to revision and documentation. The pace and phases are familiar and I'm confident that, writing skills and experience aside, the process itself is something I can go through. And five years as a designer has taught me that nearly all the work is revision, and that it's so, so much better to delete the things you loved last week than to hang onto them when they no longer fit your design purpose.

Writing fiction for anyone else's viewing is terrifying to me. A friend who knew about NaNo demanded an elevator pitch, and I froze in place. It's too embarrassing. Everyone has a very bad novel kicking around in her head. I don't want anyone to know I'm one of the everyones. I come up with concepts, create outlines, start writing, tell no one, and get nowhere. NaNo's community and public accountability swept me up and carried me to the first goal.

So I'm putting my synopsis here, because it's time for accountability and concrete commitment, instead of crawling inside of a closet or dresser drawer to write. Don't worry; I won't be posting excerpts here. But I am going to put my goals and progress out for the world to see. The first goal: reach the end of December fully prepped to begin the first revision on January 1st.

"Corey, Someplace Else" takes place in a re-imagined Appalachia, charting the emergence of the title character from his family's cycle of abuse and his exploration of the beautiful and complex world beyond the gates of his trailer park. This YA novel is in the magical realism genre, with a Southern Gothic sensibility.

In the rural town of Culmore Cove, 17-year-old Corey Ellison leaves his mentally ill father and moves in with a pair of austere great-aunts. He explores their century-old farmhouse and finds ghosts and memories inside. When he takes a summer job with a renovation company, Corey puts his second sight to use, identifying properties that carry good memories and those that are haunted by a bad past. He spends his days with a ghost and turns a critical eye on his old friends. As his abilities increasingly disconnect him from the world, Corey reevaluates family roles and the happiness and suffering that are part of living with others. In this hot, lush Tennessee summer, Corey will encounter deadbeat gods, monster catfish, ghosts of the Cherokee, and the night-stalking Wampus cat, and come to terms with the probability that he won't make it to autumn alive.