Buffalo and Wool: Inspiration for NaNoWriMo 2013

It has been 5 months since I posted here. I even started a new blog with a few posts. But now it’s October, and I’m thinking of doing NaNoWriMo again this year. I wrote about that experience last year on this blog (enter “NaNoWriMo” in the search bar to see the posts), so I’m coming back here.

For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It’s not a commemoration kind of month though; it’s also a challenge. The website describes it as:

…a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 p.m. on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.

I often need a deadline to give me a kick in the pants. Recently I’ve realized how much I struggle with focus. I try to multitask. I procrastinate. I feel uncomfortable often when I focus, like there a restless push to keep going, to not rest, to be more efficient by not losing myself in focus. But that does not work well. I don’t perform to my best ability and I miss out on things I enjoy, like reading or studying or really listening. It’s difficult at first, but fulfilling after the hurdle of wanting to do something else or something more. A goal with a deadline helps keep me on task. Not always. I’m still growing in it. It’s a discipline. And NaNoWriMo is surely a time to exercise and grow in discipline.

Last year I “won” NaNoWriMo. You say you’re a winner when you complete the challenge by reaching 50K words. That was a great experience. It was difficult to grasp the concept that I wrote so much in 30 days, and how that is an accomplishment. But what I did not like is that my story was jumbled and incomplete. I’ve avoided editing it because when I would start I would get overwhelmed. Maybe that is another focus thing. But it wasn’t an easy task because it was not technically a story that flowed. I didn’t see where to piece it together, how to make it work.

Perhaps I’ll revisit it one day with a renewed since of how to make it work. But my hope this year is to work with a linear story. And I’m revisiting an idea I had at the end of my study abroad experience in England (which I blogged about here). (Yes, yet another blog that I started and abandoned.) But the short story I wrote at the end of my abroad experience is my favorite and best thing I’ve written. It’s less than 20 pages about a young man living in future London. He deals with the loss and memory of his beloved grandfather. He wrestles with a decision to take a job in the US, because of what it means to leave home and moving on. For a while I’ve thought about continuing that story into his life in the US. I’m thinking of tying it in with another image of what the US would be like if bison still thundered on the plains. I got the idea from a children’s picture book called Thunder on the Plains: The Story of the American Buffalo.

I shelved in the children’s section of a library, and that one caught my interest. What would it be like if it was part of our experience that you would hear the sound of massive buffalo, thousands or millions of buffalo, running past a city area? What would it be like to watch for hours until the herd finally passed? Maybe it would be as familiar as a train horn. (I like train horns.) How would American be built differently if such vast herds still existed today?

I thought about what it would be like if for some reason in the future there were large bison herds again. How would America get there? What will America be like 50-100 years from now?

These are questions to tease answers out of during November before I dive into writing. I’m encouraged by my current pleasure reading Wool by Hugh Howey. In no way do I think my story will amount to the success of Howey’s short story-turned novel. But I like how it was a short story that became a novel. It’s also speculative fiction with a dystopian feel. I first heard of Wool at a friend’s wedding summer of 2012. Upon hearing that I was a writer who liked to read fantasy fiction and wanted to write a novel, a friend of the bride suggested I read Wool. I wrote the name down, thinking it was an odd title but eager to read it one day.

One day dragged on. I would forget about the recommendation, then come across the slip of paper with the title, remember, only to forget again. I only saw ebook downloads available when I did look it up online, but I hesitated to purchase it. I’m a big fan of borrowing from the library first to make sure I like a book or movie before I buy it, if I ever do buy it. Then one day I saw a physical copy of the book at the library! I had no time to read it though, so the title drifted from memory again. A few weeks ago, while searching for a book to sample on my Kindle, I saw Wool again. I downloaded the sample to come back to it one day. This past weekend I was Skyping with my family. My dad asked me, “Have you heard of a book called Wool?” “Yes!” I exclaimed. The title had come up again. I could not escape it. My dad told me he had read the whole book and really liked it. I knew if my dad liked it, I would like it. We’re both fans of speculative fiction. He’s more into sci fi. I prefer fantasy fiction. But we appreciate both. My dad was excited about it, so later I whipped out my Kindle to read the sample. I was instantly hooked. I know I’m hooked when I start talking to the characters (in a film, TV show, or a book). And I was whispering under my breath only a few pages in.

It’s now my goal to slowly get through the book this month in my free time. Having a full time job makes pleasure reading more of a challenge. NaNoWriMo writing will be even more of a challenge. But it’ll be exciting. I think Wool will be good inspiration and research. I love the style. While I do enjoy some flowery text, I like when there’s a hint at something more but it’s left to the imagination to fill in the blanks. There’s a lot of dialogue in the novel. There are also many unanswered questions. But not the kind that make me feel tricked, questions that should really be answered but just aren’t. (The show Once Upon A Time was sometimes often bad at that.) I’m don’t feel left in the dark, just intrigued and appreciative of how well crafted this story is to make me so intrigued. It makes me want to keep reading and it makes me want to write.

So I’ll try. I don’t know if I’ll reach 50K words or get close. But it’s a fun idea. I’m excited.

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