Limbo is still my residential address for now, so I've decided that in the grand tradition of limbo and purgatory and the 'waiting place', I would set myself a challenge to pass the time until I know my fate.
This time last year I was very excited to announce that I had signed up for the National Novel Writing Month challenge for November. Like every starry-eyed newcomer I had visions of churning out a masterpiece of forty thousand words in just thirty days.
Well, a master piece it was not.
In fact, in the end I only managed between 3-5000 words (if you include the 1500 words I lost because I didn't back up my work - as my favourite uncle likes to mind me, always back up!).
My big problem was that I didn't have a defined plot. I sort-of, kind-of knew what I wanted to write and where I was going with my characters, but that wasn't enough to get me past the first obstacle of 'what now?'
The 'What now?' challenge faces every writer somewhere along the way between first word and last word, in fact, many writers face that challenge in every chapter and even on every page. The best way through the 'What now?' challenge is a road map - a plot outline. I didn't have one - well, not one that was detailed enough to carry me through.
So, I've signed up again this year. I hope to win (that is complete the task), but I'm not nearly as starry-eyed as I was last year.
I'll admit I didn't have a story when I signed up. I went to the Nano forums to see if I could adopt a bunny - that is, a plot suggestion left by other writers. I unwittingly stumbled upon the fantasy adoption thread and couldn't understand why everyone seemed obsessed with fantasy - but it made for a very good laugh, with magic doo-dads and endless quests and dragons and damsels in distress. I found nothing to pique my interest there though.
I found the vanilla adoption thread and there were some interesting plot ideas there - nano adoption threads are inspiring if only to read so many great ideas in other people's heads.
A story came to me - and I might write in at a later date - but in the end I felt I might need more research that I could get done before November 1st. I could have tried to 'pants it' - write the story by the seats of my pants, but as I've already explained, pantsing it was my downfall last year.
Finally it occurred to me that I've had a story hanging around for years - the story of the obstetrician's daughter. Some of you may remember this was the story I originally intended to write for my Creative Writing Masters thesis. I ended up laying that story aside when it became clear my supervisor really didn't 'get' what I was attempting to do - illustrate the struggle between the medical world of birth and the natural world of birth. He believed 'birth' was not an issue at the forefront of most readers. He felt I needed to have my character give birth in a shopping mall at the climax of the narrative... He reminded me of this video...
He kept throwing ludicrous ideas at me to make the story more interesting - because it just didn't get it...
Anyway, so I'm going back to that story, and I'm going to change the style of it so that it's not just the story of a woman learning about her birth options and being caught between the beliefs of her obstetrician father and community midwife mother-in-law, but that it is a series of letters the mother writes to her unborn child throughout the pregnancy about her experiences, her struggle, her sister's birth story, and the trauma it left in its wake, and all the things that pull women in one direction or another during those months.
What do you think?
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