I Wrote a (Terrible) Novel in November.
And It Was Exactly What I Needed.
In November, I wrote a novel. As part of NaNoWriMo, I wrote over 60,000 words of original fiction. And I was overwhelmed with relief and pride to have done it.
I wrote fiction throughout my childhood and adolescence, but stopped during college. Fiction is my first and great love as a writing form. But after almost a decade away, I was afraid I’d forgotten how to tell stories.
Writing a novella-length story in 30 days is a difficult exercise, but I was reminded of how exhilarating the telling of an original story really is. I started with absolutely no plan - no characters, no plot ideas, no nothing. I just sat down at my keyboard on November 1 and started writing whatever came into my head.
And in the process, I started to learn what had long been on my heart.
For the last two years or so, I’ve felt a call to return to fiction. Throughout my journey of awakening, throughout my years of reading nothing but women’s writing, I’ve felt the urge to write new stories.
Stories of soft and strong women. Fierce and fragile women. Women in their complexity not just as women but as human beings. The things that we have yearned for, the things we have been denied. The things we are now grieving.
The novel is terrible. It has no clear storyline. It weaves and wanders. It saunters and stumbles. It surprised me on more than one occasion, when I would write a whole chapter during a lunch hour and come to a screeching halt at the end and wonder, “Where the hell did that idea come from?”
But storytelling is the great truth-telling. In story, we can speak to the universal through the personal. We can express things through our characters that we may have been afraid of speaking out loud in our real lives.
In the next three months, I have a goal of writing three short stories, one a month. I am writing female-centric stories as a form of reclamation. Because in my stories, women can be everything that women in our world are allowed and expected to be - and more. My characters can be honest. My characters can be true.
It’s my hope to share more about the creative process over these next few months, and I’ll be keeping notes on my experience of creative recovery as I go ahead with this audacious (and life-giving) ambition.
Most of all, I am thrilled to be writing fiction again. Fiction has always had my heart, and always will. I have spent far too long away from it. It is what I have always known I’m really meant to do in this life. It’s my Real Work.
And I can’t not do it anymore.
More to come. x