National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) started today and I was lucky enough to be sick on the day that I was meant to write my first 2,000 words. Thankfully dedication prevailed and I ended up writing a bit over 2,500 words to kick off my novel. Off to a pretty good start! The working title for my novel is Cambion and it is a character-driven story about the Stockholm Syndrome in an abduction situation.
To prepare for NaNoWriMo I went to Fremantle with a few friends on Sunday, October 31. Lisa and Shona have already done NaNoWriMo before and they gave us some tips and advice, which was much appreciated. Ellen and I went to grab some dinner in a Korean restaurant (where I ordered the equivalent of chicken schnitzel) and Ellen posted an interesting question to me (and I’m paraphrasing) - “If someone gave your writing the best compliment you could ask for, what would it be?"
At first I couldn’t really think of anything specific. But then it came to me. I have a lot of story ideas, but most if not all of them focus on character development and interaction at the core. It could be an idea for an adventure story or an action-packed thriller, but in the end what I really consider the most is how the characters interact, how they grow and how their personality changes. If somebody gave me the best compliment I could think of about my writing, it would be a compliment about the depth of my characters and how well I portray human nature in my writing.
Of course this is just a dream - just the ideal compliment. I’m no great writer and while I love studying human emotion and behavior, I’m not confident that I can write as much depth, realism, and inner growth into my characters as I would like. But that won’t stop me from trying.
When I write I tend to imagine myself in the place of my characters. Not just the main character, but antagonists and supporting characters as well. During the planning stages I considered making the main character - Anka Svetlanova - similar to myself (heck, as you can see by the name even the heritage is similar), but was worried that people might think that I’m writing about myself. But as Lisa pointed out yesterday - I’m not writing this for anyone else. I don’t care if my main character is similar to me. Maybe she’s a version of me, maybe all of them are. Instead of developing an alternate history, job, whatever for her I could just write about the things I know. So I’ve decided that Anka works at a horse farm. So far, her Russian roots and job are the only parts of her history that are similar to my own (oh, and the fact that she Tweets, but I’m sure more and more aspects of myself will be injected into her and even Cab (the other main character) as I go on.
Lisa recommended a software called yWriter to use for NaNoWriMo. It looks great, but seemed like a bit too much of a hassle to install on my Mac as it doesn’t seem to be natively compatible with OS X. So I checked out a program that quite a few people were raving about on the NaNoWriMo forums instead, called Scrivener. It’s not free, but has a 30 day free trial, which will be perfect for the month-long novel challenge. So far it’s going well. You break your novel down into chapters and scenes within chapters (if you want). There are also other features that I’ve heard about but haven’t checked out yet - things to help you with character development, notes, places to put photos for ideas, etc. Also there’s a great full screen mode that just shows you your “sheet of paper” as you write with no other distractions.
Another positive is that C’s dad just gave us a computer table which I’ve claimed as my own (C already has his own desk). I just need to get a chair for it and then I’ll have my own dedicated writing/working space in my spare room (which used to hold shoes but will now be turned into my office). This will help me concentrate on writing (and work) instead of having to do it in bed or on the couch.
Here’s an excerpt of what I’ve written so far. This is a few random paragraphs in the middle of what I’ve written tonight, so I wouldn’t expect it to make sense. I think what’s going to be one of the most difficult things for me in writing this month is not being allowed to do any editing to what I’ve written until after NaNoWriMo.
Anka heard a sound. Barely audible, subtle at first, but growing louder with each repetition. She looked around, searching for the source. Understanding dawned on her like a bucket of ice poured over her head. Her phone. The emergency cellphone.
She stuck her hand into her bag and rummaged at the bottom, between her riding boots and work jeans, to fish the phone out and turn it off. Too late. As she pulled it out she briefly saw her mother’s photo on the caller ID. She cursed under her breath and looked up in time to see the unmasked man striding toward her, urgency and agitation obvious in each step.
“I’m sor-” She didn’t get a chance to finish because the man lifted his arm, pointed the gun to her chest, and pulled the trigger.