Friday, October 29, 2010

One crazy weekend

I come to you this evening from the lobby of the Portland Hilton. (Side note: I think it is absolutely ridiculous that the Hilton does not provide free internet access to guests in their rooms.) I've never stayed at the Hilton before... so why am I here now? Because this is where the 2010 JASNA AGM is being held.

The what?

The 2010 Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America.

Yes, I am one of "those women"--the ones who will debate if Captain Wentworth or Mr. Darcy is the best Austen hero, and who knows that even though Northanger Abbey was published after Austen died, it is actually one of her earliest works. I am a Janeite, and I wear that title with pride.

The conference thus far has been amazing. We began yesterday with an exhibit of Austen and Regency first editions that was... beyond words. I have only seen two other book exhibits that compare: the British Library and the Dead Sea Scrolls. One of the works was a first edition of an Austen predecessor. That particular book was published on subscription, which means people actually paid for it before it was printed. There is a list of all the subscribers in the front of the book, and there on the first page is one Miss Jane Austen, Steventon. For some reason, that meant more to me than the actual Austen first editions, of which there were four.

The first plenary session was given by Stephanie Barron. Her sense of humor was delightful, and I also appreciated some of the things she had to say about writing. I'd never thought of laying the constructs of a detective novel over the plot of non-mysteries, but it is an interesting way to look at fiction. It might be a good plot building exercise as well.

The conference continues tomorrow and concludes with a brunch on Sunday morning. I'll come home that afternoon to rest, because NaNoWriMo begins Monday morning at midnight. We'll be meeting at Shari's at 11:00 for our annual Midnight Write. My goal is to have my first day's word count in before I go home... though that might not happen if my dictating disturbs too many people. I'm not going to destroy my wrist just to be able to say I made it to 5K that night.

My NaNo goal this year is to write the rough draft of an entire trilogy. That means I have to write 5K in a day, rather than just 1667. It also means I'm crazy, but you know that already. I've had the first two novels plotted out for weeks, but the third escaped me... until today! I was doing a character profile and the plot just appeared. I love it.

And this is my weekend... Now I'm going back to my room so I can get some much needed beauty sleep. Breakfast is at 8 in the morning... I think. I'd better make sure before I go to bed, shouldn't I?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

NaNoWriMo and Me

I have participated in National Novel Writing Month every year since 2003. For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is a crazy attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. There are no judges; there are no prizes; it is the biggest un-contest of them all.

So why bother? Why spend thirty days slaving over something no one will see but myself?

I believe the self-challenge is the key to NaNo's success. We all have things in life we would like to do, but oftentimes they remain empty dreams. NaNoWriMo comes with an international audience. People from around the world watch to see if you actually complete your novel. At the same time, you watch them and cheer them on. It is, in fact, the world's largest accountability group.

I wrote my first stories when I was in elementary school. With the encouragement of my middle school English teacher, I started an historical romance series. It was then I decided I wanted to be a novelist when I grew up. However, I approached this as if it were some kind of airy, theoretical future. I wrote fun stories for my friends, and, when pressed, I claimed these were practice for my "real writing."

NaNoWriMo taught me to take my writing seriously. When I told people I was going to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days, all of a sudden I had a deadline. The theoretical future was now.

I won that first year. Even though the 50,000 words became 24,000 upon editing, I still look back on it as the turning point in my career as a writer. Since then I have had three false starts and written three more novels. Two years ago, I wrote the start of Mr. Darcy novel called His Good Opinion. I recently completed the rough draft and hope to be ready to send out queries by the end of next year.

This year will be my eighth NaNoWriMo, and it will also be a first: it will be the first year that I attempt to do more than one story. I know, I know. If 50,000 words this crazy then surely 150,000 is purely insane. Why am I doing this to myself? It will take a trilogy to tell the story, and that's part of it. However, there is another secret part of me which simply wants to see if I can. And that, my friends, is what National Novel Writing Month is all about.