Writing fiction is something so many people want to do, yet so few do, and even fewer do it well. It’s not one of my talents, that’s for sure. But like most, I always dream that there’s a novel in me somewhere, that if I could just bring it to the fore, it would sell, sell well, and I would be a household name.
I did actually attempt a novel once; in 2004 I wrote a novel about a girl who is called home from college to help take care of her father, who’s had a sudden heart attack, requiring a change in her plans that the girl resents mightily. She also feels guilty about her resentment, particularly because of her religious upbringing. But over time she takes stock of her life and refocuses on carrying out her plan in her home town. And there are family and relationship conflicts along the way, to add local color. When everything seems to begin to settle down to an even keel, a category 4 hurricane barreling down on the area (of course, this takes place in Florida) threatens to destroy not only the girl’s plans, but her home and community as well.
I planned this novel well, I thought. I did character sketches, outlined the plot, chapter by chapter. Then I bulldozed through it, often writing a chapter a day. All was going well until I got to the last three chapters; at that time, a category 4 hurricane actually WAS threatening my area, and writing a novel had to take a back seat to preparing for survival. Fortunately for us, and unfortunately for the area south of us, Hurricane Charley veered to the east just a couple of hours before it was due to roar right up the mouth of Tampa Bay. And then just a few weeks later three more hurricanes marched through Florida: Frances, Ivan and Jeanne.
When hurricane season was over, I turned back to my novel, and couldn’t write a thing. The plot seemed anticlimactic after the real-life hurricanes that had hit Florida. The characters seemed flat and dull. I had hit a wall. And to this day, I’ve never been able to finish that book. I had three chapters to go. When I take it out and read it now, I sometimes think it’s okay, not bad writing, but I am a different person now. This novel is like an old friend I have nothing in common with anymore. Could I change everything around, take parts that work and make it into an entirely new story? Maybe. But not yet.
I’m thinking about this today because of NaNoWriMo, which means “National Novel Writing Month.” The challenge is to write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November; that equals about 2000 words a day. I love writing challenges, and the temptation is to take this one up, but I can’t give it the attention it deserves this time around. I’m preparing for a major move, preparing for a separation/divorce. But I’m intrigued all the same. I’m going to do it NEXT year, when I’m settled in my new home, and have more free time, and a freer mind, to do my best. Well, hopefully my best. Well, actually just to write 2000 lines a day of anything. Something.