December 01, 2011

NaNoWriMo rebel

Wow, November has been a crazy month. It included a 50-mile ultramarathon, a visitor from Australia, and a trip to the Netherlands, where I still am for another couple of weeks.

After starting on a couple of fiction ideas, both titled Sub-3 Marathon and totalling nearly 18,000-odd words, and getting stuck I decided to use the time to work on a nonfiction draft instead. In other words, I became a NaNoWriMo rebel.

The good news is that I did complete a first draft of 50,000-odd words so the main goal is accomplished. And I am glad I did. At the end of the day, the purpose of the challenge is to write. I write a lot, especially between books when I have plenty of ideas but not yet a clear focus for the next work.

It's in some ways a frustrating time as I will myself to produce but wonder how much progress I am making as I feel my way around the various topics and ideas. In the past month I wanted to do too much too well too soon. I wasn't able to let myself write without judgement.

Instead, I spent time researching the processes of novel writing such as in Elizabethe George's Write Away: One Novelist's Approach to Fiction Writing and James Smith's You Can Write a Novel, which has been helpful. Like in running, the process of writing is an ever-evolving one as the author finetunes what works best for her, helping her to get the best out of herself and adjusting as she goes along.

In 2010, the process of simply writing with a focus on quantity worked for me, resulting in my first novel From my Mother. I had a much better idea of what I wanted to write, even though I wasn't aware of it until it was there on the screen in front of me. This time, I was searching and still trying to distill what it was I wanted to say. I think I got a few steps closer because of NaNoWriMo, it just wasn't in the form of a novel this time.  

Now that NaNoWriMo is doing, I have the freedom and agony of choice; which manuscript to commit to next. It's time to focus. I think my 2011 NaNoWriMo rebel effort needs some time to hang out quietly on the hard drive, before I'll get back to it later.

Since I am in the Netherlands at the moment, the country where I was born and raised, I am once again drawn to the idea of writing a book in my mother tongue. I must admit though that these days I am much more comfortable in English, even as I am still fluent in Dutch.

It's like using a muscle you haven't used in a while. You still remember exactly how it's done but it feels a little awkward at first as the muscle needs to remember what it used to do. Likewise, my Dutch needs some warming up before it feels supple again. My thoughts are in English, and have been for at least eight years, and my main mode of communication in writing and speech have been in English for 15 years now.

At the same time, I think that is exactly what will make using the language again fresh and exciting. Aside from articles for a university magazine and some poetry (and of course some diaries) more than 20 years ago, I've not written in my mother tongue - certainly not professionally. But I think I am ready for the challenge.

I am thinking, naturally, a book on running in general and marathon running in particular, with a sprinkling of ultras. Of course I am checking out what has been written so far.

Like elsewhere, running is a popular topic for Dutch writers too. I'll try to get a hold of a few titles through the local library such as Jan Knippenberg's De Mens als Duurloper, Abdelkader Benali's De Marathonloper and De Zandloper, and Paul Rosenmuller's Ik loop dus ik besta.

The last time I was in the Netherlands, in April 2010, I began on a Dutch manuscript too. But once back in Canada, I found it too hard to continue. I think it will be different this time as I am also preparing to start my first translation project: creating a Dutch edition of Tim Moore's Sub Nine: History's Fastest Ironwomen.

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