National Novel Writing Month: Empowerment through Stories

[N.B.: This is a post I started writing in October and then promptly forgot about posting until now! Better late than never!]

It’s National Novel Writing Month! It’s my absolute favorite time of the year. It’s crazy, it’s hectic, but it’s such a mainstay of my writing life I think I’d be lost without it. This will be my 10th year as a NaNo Participant, and my first year as Municipal Liaison for the wonderful Skagit Valley region.

I don’t typically relish public leadership roles (social anxiety, nagging self doubt, existential dread, etc.), but I felt so strongly about NaNo that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. My first NaNo, back in 2007, came at a time of my life when everything was in flux: I had just graduated college and found my first full-time job in all its soul-sucking glory, started dating my first girlfriend and so came out as queer in an awkward, bumbling sort of way. I didn’t know what I was doing with my life and I felt out of control of it. I don’t even remember how I found out about NaNo (I think I saw a book in a bookstore by Chris Baty?), but it sounded like a great distraction and sufficiently impressed my girlfriend, so I was all in.

I didn’t make it to 50K that year (it would take about 5 years of trying to do so) but I found that I could write, I found the pleasure in telling a story. I wrote a sci-fi novel about a lowly office assistant who has an Alice-in-Wonderland-type journey to another planet where she discovers her true powers. It was a really meaningful story for me, about the powerless finding power, about hope in darkness, about the suffocation of roles and binaries and how to free yourself from that. Most of all, the actual act of writing gave me hope and purpose. I had something meaningful to say and I was saying it. That’s a kind of power I didn’t know I had access to.

And I was hooked. Ten years later and I haven’t regretted a single hectic November. And it’s wild to me that I’m now an ML and my job is to cheer on other novelists, people who love what I love and value what I value: personal narratives, freedom of expression, stories of all kinds. For me, it’s never been about the word count, it’s always been about the community. Through our stories, we reach out to others and share the deep, undiscovered parts of ourselves.

NaNoWriMo: Halfway Point & Excerpt

25K written, halfway through.

Here’s an excerpt from what I wrote today–obviously very rough, weird draft. Sorry, if it’s not clear what I’m going for, it’s supposed to be a page of a letter from the main character, this wellness guru/religious leader. It’s roughly modeled off of Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians and Song of Songs, so hopefully that explains the strange tone somewhat.

Love is another illusion. It is one of those grasping, desperate attempts to outwit your natural solitude. You may fool yourself for a while, but sooner or later you will recognize love is an illusion that cannot be sustained for long.

Ultimately, it is a betrayal. Sometimes this betrayal is like cold, slick metal between your ribs. Other times it is a dull constant aching, like a cyst, like a cancer. Either way, it will eat you from the inside. You will be changed. Look at me. I was in love once, I was cut from the inside out. My whole body, a thousand tiny cuts. I will bleed away, eventually.

It is like that wonderful dream where you have found the Other, the one who completes you, the one who can look into your eyes as if they were her own, the one who seems like they can reach into your heart, and gently, gently, cradle it. They have entered your bloodstream, and you feel overwhelmed with joy. You feel as though you have found what you had been missing all along. That precious, vital thing that had been cut out of you so long ago, returned and now you are whole. You are, at last, yourself. Only, of course, you wake up. Everything is the same as before. You are not changed. You are the same person you’ve always been, half empty and bewildered. You grieve the loss of that feeling of wholeness, like a sawed-off appendage, even as you realize it was never really something you possessed to begin with. That is the essence of love. That is when you realize what the poets say is, somehow, true. He cannot contain you. You will vanish into thin air.

Ask yourself, for how long can you keep your beloved? You cannot possibility expect him to stay in there, inside your head, alongside those incessant thoughts, the gruesome doubt, the internal screams that keep you up all night. There is no room for him, either.

Day One: Recap

“’In all men’s hearts a slumbering swine lies low,’ says the French poet; so come ye, whose porcine instincts have never yet been awakened, or if rampant successfully hidden, and hurl the biggest, sharpest stones you can lay your hands on at your wretched, degraded, humiliated brother, who has been found out.

-Oscar Wilde

Day one, and it has been ridiculously productive! I hit a gold mine by retelling a real-life experience that’s been fresh in my memory. I wrote it out as a nonfiction piece, then rewrote it in a slightly creepier tone and fictionalized some major elements to make it fit in as it as part of my novel.

I basically used it as part of the backstory for my main character. It’s really helped me get into the story a bit more. The main character (don’t have a name yet) went through a series of traumatic experiences, eventually leading her to completely change her life and transform into this pseudo-religious leader/cult leader/feminist icon (or something). This is where the story begins!

Also, I feel like I should explain the Oscar Wilde quote: I really like it and it fits into my story, somehow. It’s pretty biblical. I always think of women being stoned in the Bible, but I guess it applies to men too.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoning

Happy NaNoWriMo Eve!

Hello! It’s the last 30-odd minutes of October and the perfect time for a quick blog post. I’ve had this empty blog for a while, and I figured why not start it up as a little diary of this year’s National Novel Writing Month activities?

This year I am starting out with a less traditional route: I’m writing a non-linear, multi-dimensional collection of writings, more or less based on a theme, a feeling, an idea. Eh, it’s confusing to explain, but I always am a bit short on plot and heavy on ideas, so this works for me. Or maybe it won’t, I guess we’ll see.

As if it’s not painfully clear, I haven’t spent too much time planning this out. No outline to speak of, just a list of books to read, research to do, and a few random ideas scribbled in a spiral notebook. Hopefully, I’ll include more on the specifics later.

Here’s to a productive and creative NaNo!

Oh, and if anyone’s out there, please feel free to find me on NaNoWriMo.org. I’m ProphetOfProse.