On my way into work today, my thoughts turned to the upcoming NaNoWriMo event, towards which I have been building. I realized that since it’s the start of October now, I should also be ramping up my daily word count. I want to aim for more than 1000 words a day this month, in the hopes it makes the 1,667 words per day average to complete NaNoWriMo’s 50,000 words in a month easier.
While I was thinking about that, I remembered that maybe now I should start noodling around some ideas of what, exactly, I should be writing next month. I need a topic. Don’t I? Maybe I don’t. Perhaps this exercise of just sitting down and writing is telling me I don’t need an actual plot. I can just write free-form, wild and free, and see what story, plot, and characters show up. Maybe that’s how I should do it?
And then, as is often the case, I remembered previous attempts, particularly my Untitled Political Novel, the one whose story and characters have been kicking around my head for nearly a decade and a half. The one about the slacker atheist Portlander who gets a political awakening in 2005 or so that Democrats aren’t going to do anything about the lawless Bush administration, and decides to run for Congress. Against the incumbent comfortable centrist Democrat. From the left.
It was, and remains, a great idea. I don’t need to tell anyone who lived through it, but the George W. Bush administration was crazypants. Christian evangelical policies, illegal wars, our environment under attack, and the continuing criminalization of protest and dissent.
As the years passed, though, well, you know. Politics did not get less crazy. Things today make the mid-Aughties look sane in comparison. And I grew increasingly doubtful I could explain the times back then in a way that highlighted the madness but also drew parallels to what’s happening today.
I set the story aside. Then, this year, I realized that it’s still important to tell, and tried working through the plot threads again. Made a huge diagram of the plot on my wall, complete with red ribbons and pushpins. But it still feels… mild.
I still have doubts about telling that story. But I want to tell that story. And have it connect to today.
Then I had it.
I have to start the story now. I have to assume all that I’ve plotted out already, the campaign, the reversals, all my characters. It all happened just as I’ve plotted out. And then… what happens next?
I have to write the sequel to the story I haven’t told.
The idea of taking the characters who have lived in my head and finally going beyond where I’ve left them gave me such a flash of energy and excitement I knew that this is the right idea. I know these people, and now they’re here, alongside me, marveling and reacting to the three-ring circus that is modern life. Believe you me, they have things to say about it.
I still need to figure out where they go from here, but all the notes and sketches and half-written scenes will inform what I’m writing; while the skill I’ve been practicing for a month and a half now—just sit down and write whatever—will propel me forward.
I don’t know if I would have found this solution to my mental doubts if I hadn’t been putting in seat time on my blog. Maybe, maybe not. But now, for the first time in a long time, I’m excited to see what happens when November 1st rolls around.
How awesome is that?