Thursday, November 1, 2018

NaNoWriMo 2018, Update #1: Let's Get It Started!

I've participated in NaNoWriMo several times in the past, and each has been its own individual experience. From writing while an active student, sorority member, and fashion website contributor in 2014, to completing the whole challenge in 17 days after a week-long vacation, and ensuing sickness, left me sidelined for the first half of the month, in 2016. Last year I won on Day 21, after having taken only two days off: one for a major surgery, and one for recovery from that surgery!

Each time I write for NaNo, I try to use it as an chance for something new. The best example of that was last year's challenge, which I took as an opportunity to tackle both a genre I had no experience writing in - Horror! - and a format that I wasn't familiar with - short stories! - in order to push my writing experience to the next level. By the end of the challenge, I had written three and a half horror shorts that I was justly proud of, and had accumulated such a slush pile of other soft ideas, that I ended up writing one and a half more stories on my own time throughout the rest of the year... as well as about fifteen full outlines for others.

But no matter how difficult or different I found that project, the time has come to choose a new one, and while I'm going back to the standard formatting of a novel, the genre and audience I'm writing for this time might be even more intimidating than last year's. 

Young Adult Contemporary. That's what I'm writing. A genre so completely outside my wheelhouse that my younger brother - and one of my favorite reading buddies - could not even muster it up as a guess when I prodded him into trying. A genre I don't even really read on my own time, at least since I was about in high school.

Not that that's stopped me before: the first two books I wrote for NaNo were both highly-satirical thrillers... something else I don't really read. And it's not like I seek out short form horror for the most part, either! So far, that writing advice of "write something you'd like to read" is a little wonky, in my case, and YA contemporary definitely fits that quota.

But its the idea I fell in love with first. It's something I haven't been able to evict from the residency it's taken up in my head, since I first spit-balled the idea during a random Top Ten Tuesday post from last year. The more I thought about it, the more I felt sure the idea was a good one, that could work, and was the sort of thing other people might want to read, too... until now, I am left with no other choice, than to pursue the whole thing myself!

And so this year's project is going to be an adaptation, which is new for me, too. I've never even written any meaningful fanfiction, and yet, here I am about to jump in on a novel that not only I love, I've never really felt prompted to focus in on, from a writing standpoint, all that much. Here I am in the past week, doing deep dives not only into historical and pop culture context, but major themes and motifs, authorial intent and personal life, but even a gosh-darned Tony-winning musical adaptation.

At this point, to decide not to pursue it, would be like acting against my own instinct. It would be denying the part of my brain that's prompted me to take part in these crazy writing challenges all along. The only way to keep developing my writing abilities, is to keep leaning in to the organic parts of the creative process... and I, like Mary Lennox, will "[become] stronger, by fighting with the wind."

And that, ladies and gentleman, is the book I am adapting to a YA contemporary audience: Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden. The above quote also provided the inspiration for my working title, Fighting with the Wind. 

As of the moment I post this, I have not written a single word of it yet. I haven't even written a single word of the synopsis for my NaNoWriMo author's account yet, beyond the title. I just wanted to take the time to honor where I've come from through this yearly reflection, and how excited to find out what it's willing to teach me this year.

Happy National Novel Writing Month, everyone! I can't wait to see what we come up with this time.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? What is your story? Let me know, in the comments below!