Sunday, September 27, 2009

Working Toward Nano?

With October just around the corner, I can't help but think about November, when National Novel Writing Month begins. I've done it the past two years (I've yet to reach 50,000 words total during my NaNo experiences), and this year with two small kids demanding the time they deserve from daddy I feel safe in saying I won't reach 50,000 words.

So I'm thinking it's still appropriate to work on the novel I started last year, regardless of the rules. I know I need to write more than 50,000 words before it's going to be "done," anyway, so I don't think I'm flouting the rules.

But writing doesn't necessarily require rules. Of course, grammatical rules should be adhered to, except when there's a point to side-stepping them. But point of view is something you can play with, as is the believability of the narrator. The novel can be structured in almost any manner these days. Personally, I prefer to have characters and story I can follow easily. I don't relate to characters in adult stories that are bananas or armoires. Still, when it comes to Nano, all bets are off.

What's my point? The point is writers write. Writers who are new fathers pine away wanting to write. But they write in their heads all the time. Ok, I write in my head all the time. I miss doing it on paper or a computer screen for myself. Over the next few weeks, I'll review what I wrote last year and try to get back into those people's minds. It won't be quite the same, but it's time for me get back into writing. My kids deserve it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My 9/10 Novel

Living in northern New Jersey, it's difficult, if not impossible, to not think about the events of 9/11, 2001. Indeed, it's probably bad for your mental health not to think about it from time to time if you lived through it here. I suspect I will always remember exactly where in my commute I heard about the first plane hitting one of the Twin Towers. I chastised myself for assuming we were under attack — especially after the guy on WDHA amended his comments saying that it had been a small plane, not a large plane as he initially had heard.

In between the time I parked my car and turned off the engine and I entered my office, the second plane had struck. It immediately struck me: We're at war.

This blog is focused on writing, however, so here's my point: By 9/10, 2001, I had begun my first novel and written about thirty pages. I was stuck not on what to write next but when did my story occur. Was the time significant? On 9/11, I realized that we had just experienced an important line of demarcation in history; there is a pre-9/11 world and a post-9/11 world. From there, I had to determine how this affected my novel

I decided to use it obliquely. My novel begins on 9/10, 2000 and ends on 9/10, 2001. Because such attacks were barely contemplated by the average person, nothing more than faint glimpses of fear and omen are displayed. The story takes place in Hoboken, New Jersey, a town I know well that lies directly across the river from New York City. Ground Zero is within view. Indeed, the clouds of smoke and debris floated above the river after the towers fell.

Whether my oblique references to the tragedy of 9/11 should remain part of my novel — and not an overt focus of it — has been a frequent point of discussion with my initial readers. Usually I bring it up, but some of my readers have anticipated the question. I still think it's more than just a moment of inspiration; I think it's important to the story, subtle though it remains.

So, each year, I think a lot about the people who experienced 9/11 first hand. I lost a friend that day and thank God that I didn't lose more people who were close to me. I lost some innocence as well, which is largely what my novel is about — not my loss of innocence, but the nation's; or maybe it's that our eyes were opened to the terrible possibilities. And I reflect on those fictional people who mean so much today who came to life on 9/11.

With my young innocents at home, I have had almost no time to work on the latest novel much less to send my "finished" one out to agents. I respect their time and my own too much to look for representation when I don't have the time to respond appropriately if I should actually get an offer. It's like going fishing without the strength to reel in the fish.

Remember 9/11, my friends, in your own way. It's important for all Americans, regardless of political party or ideology.