Plot of my next novel? Not exactly. It’s the epic tale of how I came to participate in my first-ever National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). After a night of sleepless anxiety and some encouragement from my laddie (thanks, love!), I signed up on the evening of November 1, just in time to kick off on the event’s opening day. Previous Novembers have always found me in the middle of a project. This year, with the Syzygy hexalogy almost wrapped up (look for the final installment, Right Ascension, in the new year), I can devote a month to an experimental project.
All my published work to date has been science fiction, so I’m taking this opportunity to write a historical novel. Hey, isn’t creative freedom the whole reason I became an indie rebel? Historical fiction is my second-favorite genre, and I’ve got many ideas for stories. But the prospect is a little daunting. If you’ve read my sci-fi, you know my commitment to authenticity: even in speculative stories, I conduct intensive research to get the science right and make my inventions as plausible as possible. Writing from history requires even more diligent attention to facts. I never feel like I’ve learned enough to portray the era accurately (which is why my various prior attempts sank before reaching chapter four).
I’m hoping the structure of NaNoWriMo will propel me over that chasm. Having researched this particular story piecemeal since I first encountered it in 2015, I’ve got the essential nails and planks of world-building. Now I’ve got four weeks to construct the draft. No procrastination. No endless fact-finding tangents. No squandered months discovering whether I’ve got the chops for historical fiction. NaNoWriMo gives me a 30-day trial period to explore a new genre, with minimal interruption to my regular writing workflow.
Better still, it will encourage me to re-evaluate said workflow. I’m pretty disciplined with my writing, but always kept my goals modest until this summer, when I pounded out the final two Syzygy stories (about 50,000 total) in a six-week burst of productivity. Now I’m curious to push my limits. Messing with my reliable routine makes me a bit nervous–working full-time puts writing hours at a premium in any month of the year–but I’m approaching it the way I do my athletics. Every week I run a few steady five-milers and one long Sunday run to maintain myself, but once in a while I need a half-marathon to push me beyond that comfortable structure and remind me what I’m capable of. Yes, there will be an unexpected hill in the middle of the course that throws off my pace, and my bad hip will be screaming by mile 11. But I’ve never failed to cross the finish line. I’m counting on that viciously competitive nature to help me win NaNoWriMo (even if it means spending Thanksgiving hunched over my laptop, rudely ignoring my in-laws).
Even if I don’t hit the mark, I’ll still have a lot more draft progress than I would at my normal rate, and I’ll undoubtedly discover some things about my own process. Best of all, I get to connect with and cheer on all the other NaNoWriMo writers! If you’re a seasoned November novelist with advice for a first-timer, or just want to share about your project, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. I’m also publishing a daily NaNoWriMo journal on Twitter, so even if you’re not writing this year, follow along with my month of misadventures!