The journey to 50,000 words begins with one word.
Well, actually, it is a combination of 4 words. It’s National Novel Writing Month otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. And I’m participating.
I’ve never written a novel. I did a test run back in July when there was a Camp NaNoWriMo. July was not my friend and I did not even get close to my goal. I didn’t plan a novel for the Camp. My plan was to write every day and I had mapped out 30 topics to write about. I started a handful of them and they sit in my draft folder. I wasn’t sure I was going to participate in NaNoWriMo until a few weeks ago.
My library hosted a series of free novel writing classes in October and I attended about half of them. This blog is my first attempt (sort of) at writing something since high school. So since Reagan was President. All the classes were very engaging. The authors were storytellers after all. I learned a lot and they gave me lots of tools to add depth and layers to a story.
Over the course of the series, I thought about the books I’ve read in the past year and what I did and didn’t enjoy about them. I devoured Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. The novel opens with the stories of two sisters and each chapter follows a sort of day-in-the-life of each ensuing generation. It is beautifully written and I was left wanting to know more about the characters. I wanted more.
Some Sing, Some Cry by Ntozake Shange and Ifa Bayeza has a similar story arc where the novel opens with the story of a grandmother and her granddaughter and progresses through the ensuing generations. The first half of the book focuses on the grandmother and granddaughter and then the second half moves through the other generations. It felt quick by comparison. Possibly because I was so invested in the story of the grandmother. I wanted a prequel to this novel. I wanted the grandmother’s origin story.
Both novels have black protagonists and span enslavement, reconstruction, and black migration to the north. These novels engaged me on a subject matter that I’m not very knowledgeable about. There are a number of non-fiction books on my reading list to learn more about our history from the Black and Indigenous perspective. I have learned so much already from the people that I follow on Twitter. @FeministaJones, @Karnythia, @ClintSmithIII, and @elonjames come first to mind. There are many others. Twitter, for me, is an amazing place. A big perk of being unknown.
A frequent subject discussed on Twitter is the need for white people to do the work of fighting for racial justice. I’ve taken that to heart. I purposely chose novels written by Black or POC authors. My non-fiction reading list has expanded extensively and I’m slowly reading them. I’m learning and recognizing the ways in which society puts everyone in a box and confines them to a white supremacy narrative.
My action is not limited to reading. I registered for a class through the Chicago Freedom School that was specifically for white people. It’s a step toward being more engaged in the local fight for racial justice. Our first class focused on the history of racial justice from the time the first Africans were enslaved and brought to America. We also learned about the role of socialization in how we behave and what happens when we realize we fall outside the expected norms. I found that part applicable to so much more than just my eyes opening fully to the issue of racial injustice.
All of these things were swirling in my head and an idea for a novel came together. My initial plan was to tell a story over a series of generations starting with enslavement and following through to present day. I would start the story from the perspectives of a white woman and an enslaved black woman. As I thought about these women at the start of the story and what I wanted to relate about them I realized that I didn’t need to leave them. They were the novel.
This is no small undertaking. I have some specific goals. First and foremost, there will be no savior. The black woman will not be a happy, nurturing participant in enslavement. Her heart and wisdom will not be shared with the white woman. The white woman will not acknowledge the inhumanity of enslaving people. The focus will be on how each woman uses the agency they have at their unequal disposal. The goal is two human characters with flaws.
I have no idea how I’m going to do any of that.
What I do know is that I’ve plotted an outline of events and I’ll go from there. My expectation is that this first draft will be horrid. My hope is that the horrid is the starting point and I can work to achieve those goals during the editing process.
I’ve blocked out enough time to finish the 50,000 words before Thanksgiving week assuming I write about 800-1,000 words per hour. That’s been my range for blog posts. That’s the writing portion. I’ve also blocked out a few hours each for research on the time, place, and lifestyle of the when/where the novel is set. Today’s research will be the Big Book of Baby Names because my characters need names.
So today begin’s my journey toward my first novel. Happy NaNoWriMo kickoff!
Also, today is the kickoff for ACA Healthcare Open Enrollment. Go here to start the process: 2018 ACA Open Enrollment