It’s Nearly November – Which Means Another Novel is on the Horizon.

by Leigh Matthews on October 17, 2013

marilyn monroe reading tryptych

I probably don’t look like this during November… but I can pretend.

It occurs to me as we head into another NaNoWriMo that I should draw attention to my first novel, The Old Arbutus Tree, a result of November 2011’s 1667 words-a-day challenge, and discuss my approach to having a successful stab at the (entirely voluntary) ordeal.

Going into that National Novel Writing Month with no plot, no characters, nothing but a title… and I ended up with a tale encompassing small town oppression and secrecy, the injustice of the Canadian juvenile youth correction system in the 1980s, and the blossoming of young love between two teenage boys in the unlikeliest of places.

I’m currently editing 2012’s NaNoWriMo novel and looking forward to November 1st this year when I can start working on a new novel!

Who else has a novel that came out of this wonderful literary adventure?

What’s your approach to NaNoWriMo? Do you plan diligently, with a timeline, plot, thematic arcs, and character crib sheets all ready to go? Or, like me, do you take the flying by the seat of your pants approach and go in with nothing prepared?

Preparing for NaNoWriMo

I usually try to do some preparation in regards to general life activities so that I have an easier time of things in November. What this means for me is:

  • Preparing food in advance – a freezer full of tasty vegan meals ready to be warmed up
  • Getting all clients’ blog posts done for November, so I only have new commissions to draw attention from the novel
  • Telling all friends, family, random dog-park people, and stray kittens that I”M WRITING A NOVEL (so everyone can keep me accountable
  • Laying in some gin, tonic, and limes.

A Literary Diet

I also usually tend to try to limit my reading in the two weeks just before I start writing. It’s sort of like a literary palate cleanser as I fear my susceptibility to writing in a pseudo-Carver or pseudo-Hemingway style if I’m reading such people. Ideally, I take the whole of October to read only people who I feel will have a positive effect on my writing style but this isn’t always possible as there are usually people I want to read for Vancouver’s Writers Festival and I often don’t know what they’re like prior to reading new novelists and poets.

Often, I don’t read anything at all during November, aside from non-fiction, long-form journalism, and work-related (medical) stuff. In the past, when I’ve written longer pieces of fiction, I’ve observed that there’s a certain mimicry that happens – this is my Atwood paragraph, my Coupland chapter, my Plath poem – and that doesn’t make for a very coherent novel-reading experience in the end.

The Old Arbutus TreeNowadays, however, I don’t feel that this is totally necessary. That may be because I’ve become more relaxed about my writing style and may have even begun to consolidate that elusive thing… my ‘voice.’ The last novel, currently being thrown at literary agents, felt much more like ‘me’ than anything else I’ve ever written. As it’s a magic realism novel with a giant and a protagonist who is a lesbian in a man’s body, I’m not quite sure what this all means.

Today marks two weeks until National Novel Writing Month and so my literary diet begins. It’s also the point at which I usually settle on a title… with this year’s current favourite being ‘Don’t Sleep with the Barista’ – I’ll let you figure out the genre of book I’m (not) planning.

And, don’t worry, in December, I’ll be devouring books as fast as I can so let me know if you’ve got a NaNoWriMo novel to recommend – maybe your own?

Haven’t read my first novel yet? Use Bitcoin to buy it now and I’ll mail it out to you asap!
[wpbc_buy_now item_name=”The Old Arbutus Tree (paperback incl., shipping)” price=”11.74″ currency=”CAD”]

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