So, it’s Hallowe’en, apparently. I’m so not into Hallmark holidays; I’m one of those grinchy types who just sees rampant commercialism masking anything vaguely sacred in a given date. But that’s me. Whatever. /rant
What I am excited about, however, is NaNoWriMo!!!! For the uninitiated, this is a worldwide, largely internet-based event held through the month of November, during which participants attempt to write a novel (defined for the purpose of the event as being a work of fiction not less than 50,000 words long) in 30 days. I did it two years ago and it was absolutely one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I made friends, we started a writing group off the back of it, I ended up with a novel that I do intend to publish, and I really gave myself a whole new space in which to learn, experiment and improve.
My story, this year, is going to be a fictionalisation of a murder that happened on my parents’ property in 1940. Now, the thing that really surprised me when I was writing the first novel was the amount of research one has to do! I mean, it’s fiction, can’t you just make it up? Well sure, of course I could, but because I want to write strongly situational, atmospheric stories, I need to get the facts right. So in my first novel – which was about a garage band going on their swansong tour – I needed to figure out their tour circuit, then research the distances, find out factoids about the towns they were playing in; I studied photographs from Google maps to get the feel right; I even had to research the effects of drugs because one of my characters was annoying me and I wanted to write him out in some serious style, involving police and gaol and all sorts.
This year, I need to be even more attentive to the details of reality, even though I’m giving myself permission to play with them. One of my dear friends is a librarian, and she has been absolutely invaluable in helping me find old newspaper articles about the murder and subsequent trial (thank you, sweetie). These are brilliant not only for the facts in the articles themselves, but the whole feel of the newspaper itself, the print, the wording, the advertisements and stories about the war escalating in the outside world, the strange weather conditions that prevailed during the period in question…I’m really very excited about writing this with these old articles to hand.
The thing about NaNo (for me, at least) is that you start to really start seeing the world in a different way, like you’ve got a pair of blinkers on or a really strong “fiction filter”. By the end of November 2009, I was really quite strange; obsessed with my characters and in this loop of rise-write-eat-work-write-eat-bed. I fell prey to NaNoisms – accidents of expression which happen when you’re so in the writing zone that you don’t actually realise what it is you’re writing, and end up with redundancies and nonsenses and general hilarity. My personal forte seemed to be inadvertent puns, which litter the final third of my first novel like glitter at a Gay Pride parade. The tragic thing is, I had one this morning, and it’s not even November. I said to a friend that I was going to “polish the skeleton” of my novel (by which I meant, brush up the outline) which is of course a double pun given that it’s Hallowe’en and my story is about a murder. Unf.
You’ll get no sense out of me for a month.