Historical Fiction

::NaNoWriMo 2018::

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

This time last year, I was toying with the idea of jumping into National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Despite the fact that I was knee-deep into another novel, didn’t have a story idea, and had a lot of other things on my plate, I really wanted to participate. A few weeks later, a small spark of an idea struck me and I pledged my commitment to writing a short novel during the month of November.

I spent my limited amount of time leading up to November doing some preliminary research, character development, and outlining. To be honest, I was pretty proud of the story I’d manifested and was excited to get started. Unfortunately, only a few days into the month, I became completely consumed by another project and couldn’t focus my time or energy on writing. The story I created, however, has stuck with me and even though I’ve not written a single word for 11 months, I believe it’s a story worth telling.

While the first draft of my original novel, The Colonel’s Keeper, is not quite finished, it’s really close. Potentially, I could have that manuscript finished within a week or two and then dive into the new one. Either way, I’m publically sharing this with the hope that it will provide some sort of accountability; the swift kick in the ass I need to get to work.

I took some time today to update my NaNoWriMo page and for inspiration, created a simple book cover. Note that this is a “working title” as there are already a number of pieces of literature out in the world with it or something very similar. I just needed a springboard to get me started.

I’ll keep you posted!

National Novel Writing Month

 

In 1932, nineteen-year-old Scarlet Mills is a liberal arts student on scholarship at the College of Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan. Suffering from anxiety and depression following years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father, she writes poetry as a means to cope with her pain while pursuing a degree in creative writing. After a chance meeting with an eccentric painter from Mexico, the pair becomes friends, then lovers. The encouragement by her lover to pursue her writing and sexuality throughout their brief relationship takes Scarlet on a journey of self-discovery and healing.

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:: My Storytelling Superpower ::

* This post is in response to a writing prompt from DIY MFA Book Club which I wrote about here.

The third writing prompt in the series is this:

 

Whoa. Like OMG, WHOA.

Included with the third writing prompt was a fun little quiz to help participants figure out their storytelling superpower. My result was The Survivor which was summarized as:

You’ve got a penchant for characters who will do whatever it takes to survive. Maybe they’re stranded on a desert island, captured by an evil genius, or fighting to beat a terminal illness. Or maybe they want something so desperately that not getting it feels like a matter of life and death. Regardless of their situation, you’re drawn to creating characters your readers will admire for their pluck, determination, and sheer creative willpower.

This blew my mind because my protagonist in the novel I’m writing, The Colonel’s Keeper, is a survivor, hands-down. My character, Mary Agnes, endures a tumultuous marriage filled with years of emotional abuse and a near-fatal shooting at the hands of her alcoholic husband.

Throughout this process, I’ve been amused by the idiosyncrasies that have surfaced. The discoveries I’ve made, being drawn to writing about survivors, for example, have been a pleasant surprise. My inclination to write works of historical fiction was another unexpected revelation, especially since history (edging out math only slightly) was my least favorite subject of study in school.

I’m not sure I’d call either of these a superpower but they are definitely themes that I imagine will recur as I continue to hone my craft.

:: National Novel Writing Month ::

Several years ago, in early November, a flier at the public library caught my eye. The handout was promoting National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and the challenge created by the organization that encourages writers to complete a novel – or 50,000+ words – in the 30 calendar days between November 1st and 30th.

It was already several days into the month, if not a week or more when I saw the flier. I considered joining late but ultimately ended up passing on the opportunity, putting it off for another year when, I dunno, I’d be less busy.

A few months ago I started thinking about it again. At a third of the way through the manuscript I’ve been working on since January, with a goal completion date of October, I figured I had plenty of time to finish my current work and then get ready for NaNoWriMo. Then life and procrastination happened. I missed my self-imposed October deadline and – in the spirit of truth-telling – I’m not even two-thirds of the way finished and we’re well past mid-October.

Regardless, I signed up for NaNoWriMo anyway. Without a single idea or spark of inspiration, I created an account on the website and then contemplated not doing it at all, rather continuing the work I’ve been doing on my first novel, The Colonel’s Keeper. I watched the first half of the month go by without anything to work from… no plot, no outline, no characters to develop, no nothing.

And then BAM! The gods and goddesses of inspiration responded to my pleas while I was in the shower yesterday and an idea slowly started to form.

I guess at this point, I have no more excuses…

Working Title: Take a Lover

Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis: In 1932, nineteen-year-old Scarlet Mills is a liberal arts student on scholarship at the College of Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan. Suffering from anxiety and depression following years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father, she writes poetry as a means to cope with her pain while pursuing a degree in creative writing. After a chance meeting with an eccentric painter from Mexico, the pair becomes friends, then lovers. The encouragement by her lover to pursue her writing and sexuality throughout their brief relationship takes Scarlet on a journey of self-discovery and healing.

Visit the National Novel Writing Month website for more information or to commit to writing your own novel next month!

::Neither Did I::

The highs of writing a manuscript are high. I relish the breakthroughs, the development of the characters and plot, the moments when the words flow freely… The lows of writing a manuscript are low. I am stricken with self-doubt, uncertain that I, with words alone, can paint a clear picture of these characters and the world they live in. And then there are the moments when the words don’t flow and I am stuck and searching.

It is an overwhelming process and I have to fight the urge to shift, reshape, and edit the work I’ve completed so far. I know better. The first draft is the worst draft. It becomes the guide for future drafts and that’s when the story truly unfolds. The only job I have right now is to get the story out of my head and onto paper, or a Word document, as it were.

I spoke with a dear friend a few days ago and told her I was working on a manuscript, covering the basic synopsis; “it’s a historical fiction piece, based in Los Angeles at the turn of the 19th century and inspired by true events.” In the most endearing way possible, she said to me that she didn’t know I had it in me to write a novel. I replied, “neither did I.”

However, every so often, after I’ve managed to string together a series of words that come from some unknown well inside of me, I sit back and read what I wrote. There are some nuggets good enough to make me believe that I do have it in me to write this book. To tell the story I want to tell. To show up day after day. To face the fear. To dream that it will get published. To share the work that I feel I have been given the privilege to do.