Not an Odalisque

NaNoWriMo

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November is National Novel Writing Month. You would think that a global community of writers would be able to avoid making ‘National’ the first word of the name of an international event, but I’m not going to let that put me off. The concept is this: over 100,000 people worldwide will each attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in November. That divides up into 1666 words a day. At the end of a month of frantic writing, those of us who have not thrown down our pens in horror or frustration will be rewarded with more slush than we can ever expect to edit. I’m going to do it.

Wannabe writers all over the time zone will be beginning at midnight with a cup of coffee and a blank page. I’m not entirely sure why they do that, but I think it may be connected to the reason why people queued until the early hours on Harry Potter release dates. I intend to start tomorrow, mid-morning, with a clear head and a rising loaf in the airing cupboard to provide a good excuse for frequent breaks. I will hang up my apron and begin my masterpiece.

I am participating because I have a great fear of becoming one of those people who talks about writing a novel and never actually does it. My father spent years believing that there was a novel in him and then, unfortunately, found that someone else had already written it. I fear the wrath of published writers, who seem to have a pathological hatred of those who speak of writing without doing it, as if considering yourself capable of the feat they have accomplished is an unforgivable impudence. I was recently quizzed about my career plans by an a writer, an editor and her assistant. “What do you really want to do?” they asked. I said I honestly didn’t know. What would be the point of ruining a friendly atmosphere by putting them on the defensive? If I had finished a manuscript I could, with integrity, say that I want to be a writer.

So tomorrow I will write something. I am a little threatened by my fellow NaNoWriMoers. They have plans. They write in genres I have never heard of (can anyone explain steam punk?), with intricate plots and supernatural characters. All I have is a strong memory of an established novelist from Sheffield telling me to write what I know. I wish that he hadn’t: I hated his book about his poverty-stricken childhood. My problem is that the only thing I really know is myself.

A few days ago I conceived an idea for a novel with someone rather like me as a main character, and a vastly improved version of an ex-lover as another. Chapter perspectives would alternate between the two. It fell through at the start of the second chapter, when I realised that I can’t see things from anyone else’s perspective. A helpful writer/publisher in New York invited me to send him the manuscript of ‘Hegel’s Whip’ when it is finished. He liked my idea for a book about a young woman exploring the British fetish scene. The problem wasn’t only the painful nature of the research, but also creating a plot in the series of fragments I created on the theme.

I hope that my finished novel looks like the literary lovechild of Deirdre Madden and Milan Kundera. In the next twenty-four hours, I’ll take 2000 words on any topic. Wish me luck!

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Written by Not an Odalisque

October 31, 2009 at 11:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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