With National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starting November 1, many of my waking thoughts have concerned what to write about. I had chosen an idea and carefully crafted a chapter-by-chapter outline. I don’t spend a lot of time writing out the plot or character sheets like many NaNo’ers, because I am what’s known as a “pantser.” I generally have no idea what I’m going to write until I write it, and part of the fun for me is to let my characters surprise me. I do an outline for NaNo only to keep the nerves at bay — I know that if I panic, I can look at the outline and say, “oh, yeah, that’s where I was going.” And believe me, when you’re writing a novel in a month, it’s good to keep the nerves at bay.
This morning, just six days from the start, I woke with a new idea. It is so delicious I can hardly stand it, and my biggest problem will be NOT starting it until November 1.
I’ve had the habit of changing my mind like this since I returned to college, earning a belated degree in 2004 at age 45. I would write a paper, sometimes complete with all my footnotes neatly arranged. Then I would read the paper again, and some nugget would pop out at me that would cause me to rewrite the darn thing from a different, though more inspired, angle. So I’m used to changing my mind at the last minute. I wait until I get the juicy idea that is so compelling that I won’t mind shutting out the rest of the world while I write.
In the meantime, I also make time each day to read. This past week I read Frances Mayes’ Every Day in Tuscany: Secrets of an Italian Life. My editor has asked me to add a lot more setting and other visuals to Blood and Loam, and Mayes is a master of painting a picture of her surroundings. Travel narratives can be great teachers for description and setting, so it was fun to break away from novels to enjoy yet another of Mayes’ slice of life episodes in Italy.
I have also loaded up my iPad with books yet to read. I thought I would share what’s waiting for me. I can tell you what’s NOT waiting for me: the biography of Steve Jobs. I’d love to read it, don’t get me wrong. But $16.99 for the Kindle version? I’ll wait until the fuss dies down and buy it on sale, thank you.
Anyway, here’s what I’m reading or getting ready to read. What’s on your shelf?
The Remarkable Mrs. Ripley: The Story of Sarah Alden Bradford Ripley by Joan W. Goodwin. I am fascinated by the culture of Massachusetts post-Revolution through the Transcendental era (go ahead, call me geeky, it’s okay).
The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture by Wendell Barry. Blood and Loam is set in the Midwest in 1970, and this is research for the book.
Four Dead in Ohio by William Gordon. More research for Blood and Loam. My main character was a student at Kent State when the shootings occurred.
Twin-Bred by Karen Wyle
The Sacrificial Lamb by Jolee Morriss and J. L. Murphey
Escape from Second Eden by JoAnn Murphey
The Language of Trees: A Novel by Ruby Ilie
There are more, but this is a start!
Have a great day, and I’ll be back tomorrow with the week’s feature post.