If you’ve been reading this blog lately, you’ve probably noticed I’ve been suffering from a bit of writer’s block. Being on vacation last week only seems to have made it worse. After a week of being almost entirely out of the news cycle, I’m finding it hard to jump back into political blogging. I’ve got one half-written post that I’m trying to wrap up, but not much else.
But then yesterday’s post got me thinking about something.
Specifically, it got me thinking about the research I did on serial killers a few years ago. It was for a bit of fiction work I did, writing an outline for a murder mystery. Basically, it was a murder mystery set in D.C., with the requisite political intrigue and a queer twist or two thrown in (of course). The serial killer was a subplot, not essential to the murder in question. But I thought perhaps, part of it could be told from the perspective of the serial killer.
But after writing yesterday’s post, I took another look at my research and realized how much information I’d gathered. Then I started hunting for the outline. It wasn’t on my laptop, but then I remembered I might have used Google Documents to write it. I looked and there it was. Unfinished, but with all of the major characters and the major events sketched out.
That got me thinking.
It is finished. Sometime around two o’clock this morning, I wrote the last words in the last scene of my novel for National Novel Writing Month. The button pictured here was given to me by a fellow metro-D.C. NaNoWriMo participant, at the last local (write-in) I attended. I haven’t decided whether I’m actually going to wear it today or not. I can’t believe it, but I wrote the whole thing; from start to finish, I brought an idea I’ve had tucked away in my brain to some form of completion. Given my history, that’s an accomplishment in and of itself. That alone may be reason enough to wear the button.
So now what? Well, I plan to reward myself tonight by getting to bed at a normal hour for the first time in a month. Then I plan to send the whole thing to Kinko’s for printing, after which I may stick it in a drawer and not look at it for at least a month. After that I may pick it up again. I already have some notes for revising it; some characters that need to be fleshed out, some scenes that need a bit more detail, and my main character needs a new job — something political, maybe. February is National Novel Editing Month, but I may start the process sooner than that
A few people have asked if I’m going to try to get it published. To be honest, I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll know that until I’ve gotten some distance from it and done some revising, after which I’ll have some idea whether it’s good enough to send to publishers. Of course I could always go the self publishing route through something like Lulu.com. It would probably save me from collecting a file of rejection letters. The site is actually offering to print one copy of NaNoWriMo particpants novels for free. So, that’s an option too.
Of course, the problem was that when I sat down to revise it, I realized that — because of the storyline — in order to revise it I’d have to write about places I’ve never been.
This might not work, because (I’m embarrassed to say, at the age of 40), that I’ve never been anywhere. I’m shamefully un-travelled. The places in the world I haven’t seen could fill an atlas.
Seriously. It’s one of the frustrations I’ve felt as a writer, at least as a writer of fiction. I don’t think it’s possible to write effectively about places I’ve never been and never seen except in magazines and on television. I suppose I could Google “Rome in August” or something like that, and try to fake it, but anyone who’d been in Rome in August, or anywhere else I haven’t been but might try to write about, would know in a minute that I’d no idea what it was really like.
That’s part of the reason I still haven’t picked up the first draft of the novel I wrote for National Novel Writing Month. I started revising it, and outlining the changes and additions I thought it needed, and realized the action was almost all in just a few places, when — to tell the story the way I really wanted to — I’d have to write about places I’d never seen or been to, and wasn’t likely to visit anytime soon.
Somehow just writing about places I’d researched or read about didn’t seem good enough. I’d probably still get some important things wrong. And get tossed into some literary agent’s “circular file.” (Because they don’t have the time, I’m sure, to deal with people who don’t even know what they’re writing about.)
If I’m going to write about a place, I should have some first hand knowledge of it. Right? As a writer, I’d want to be able to describe what the air smells like after it rains, the sounds of the streets in the middle of the day, and how the wind feels on a fall afternoon. So, that novel remains in a drawer until I get a few more stamps on my passport.
But a mystery set in D.C? It wouldn’t be the first, of course, but it’s a place I do have first hand knowledge of. (I’ve lived in the metro-DC area for about 14 years.) That might be something I could sink my teeth into.
And November is coming. I think it might be time for another NaNoWriMo novel…