NaNoWriMo2017 – Week One

NANO17 wk1

This year’s National Novel Writing Month just happened to coincide with the first time I’ve been out of work in a while. I work for a temp company, and my assignment ended the last day of October (fun day, having the last day be Halloween!). Until they give me another assignment (or I find another job through applying), I have, uh, some free time.

So, on the one hand, it’s fabulous I suddenly have all this time. Since I’ve been so busy working, writing, taking care of goats and my partners, dealing with depression, etc, etc, it’s been amazing to be able to do things like: clean the house. Actually fold and put away laundry. Write for a few hours, instead of a few minutes. Plan meals. Get a few barn projects completed I’ve been putting off forever. Excetera.

On the other hand, it’s become blatantly obvious to me that I’m somebody who really needs structure. As much as I love setting my own schedule, if I don’t structure myself, I will get nothing done. Maybe it’s depression, maybe it’s just my ADD. Either way, I hear it’s pretty common, so maybe you know what I’m talking about.

So! Over this past week, I instigated a routine. I’ve heard for a while that getting dressed, even though you work from home, helps you be productive. Because clothes that are too comfortable tend to make you relax and not doing anything.

So, the first thing I did last week was put on real clothes. Comfortable ones, but clothes nonetheless. (Sidebar TMI: I hate my bras, so instead of that, I put on a comfortable sports bra. Still supportive, but not constrictive, ya know?)

Secondly, is something that’s probably a little sexist of me. In the past, and on the first day I was officially ‘working from home,’ I starkly remembered: I have really bad dark circles under my eyes (I’ve had them since I was a kid), and when I catch myself in the mirror during the day, all I could think was how tired and sick I looked.

So I broke down, and put on just a little makeup in the morning. Nothing complicated at all, just eyeliner and cover-up under my eyes to take away from the dark circles.

Is that terrible? I feel like it’s terrible, but I don’t care. Because I definitely noticed a change. I didn’t feel gross when I looked in the mirror, despite the fact that I know my reaction comes from an unrealistic standard of beauty pushed on women from capitalism and the media. I felt good about myself. Which set me up well for getting what was needed done that day.

After a week of this, I’ve come to realize that doing a household chore that’s not related to writing (bringing it back to the whole point of this post), helps spurn the writing productivity. Maybe it’s because it gives me time to think over what I want to write that day, I’m not sure.

Maybe, however, it’s because my most productive writing times seem to be late morning and late afternoon. I used to be a night owl, no doubt about it. But somewhere between working so much and life, that’s been changing for a while (I can barely think straight after 10pm… I’m becoming old!). This last week I found the word-churn happens around 11 until 1, then there’s a lull, and it picks up again a few hours later.

Anyway, the point is, I think I found a routine that will work for the time being.

Something else that happened, though I’m not sure if it’s an actual pattern or just a coincidence, is that I was much more productive at the beginning of the week versus latter in the week. I think I’m going to test that out going forward, and make myself go write at a coffee shop or something to see if a change is what’s needed there.

ANYWAY. That’s a lot of personal technical stuff to be talking about here in this blog post. Let’s get to the fun part: the writing.

As I have mentioned before, I’m working on a New Adult cyberpunk-ish that’s exploring environmentalism and the relationship between developed and developing countries (or really… oppressed and oppressor). It’s also got quite a bit of romance and philosophy and all sorts of fun science-based ecology.

If you stalk me all on social media you might have seen me relaying some frustration with colonialism tropes, trying to be different, and REALLY trying to get away from the “white savior” tropes. On a basic level, I think I’ve got the concept down. For the minutia though… the first doubt-hurdle of NaNo has appeared.

It’s really easy to fall into what’s ‘comfortable’ in interactions between characters. Especially in a romance, which is pretty heavy in this book simply because of the themes. (The female MC wields ‘fertility’ power. She realizes how much her gifts could help said oppressed society, and tries to help the future leader of this society while rather falling for him.)

Right off the bat I have a problem because writing ‘incoming White Person falls in love with Indigenous Character and saves them’ has been written about a million times, and can be pretty offensive. Simply because it takes agency away from the ‘oppressed’ society and centers the ‘white savior.’ Somewhere along the line I’ve started wanting to flip ‘white saviorism’ on it’s head and center the marginalized voice in this circumstance.

I thought I wasn’t writing that, but the more I get into this story, the more I have to yank myself out of that trap. To start with, based off of lovely advice from CPs, I’ve changed this into a dual POV that had both the ‘outsider’ and the ‘insider’ as voices. With dual POV, it’s not just the ‘outsider’ that had a voice. It’s de-centered her narrative some. (That’s what I’m writing for NaNo this year: fulfilling the second POV to balance the narrative.)

The second thing I’m doing to avoid this trap, is that the ‘outsider,’ with her magic gifts, is not going to be the main person spearheading the ‘saving’ and revolution of the ‘oppressed’ people. They’re doing that all on their own, but she, trying to be an ally, is going to help them, because she has a gift that could really help. (In that, I’m trying to explore what it actually means to be an ally, to write a story where the ‘invader’ isn’t the ‘hero’ per se.)

I wrote a draft last NaNoWriMo, and this year, I’m diving it into again with the different POV. Now that I’ve dove into it again, with a lot more information on tropes, it’s the little details keep catching me up. Just in the interactions of the main characters, it’s too easy to slip into themes of all the other stories I’ve read before without being different and avoiding bad stereotypes.

At the same time, I want them to feel natural. I’d like to think I’m pretty good at the slow burn, and some of that comes from just letting it flow. But can I trust my instincts on so much of this, when ‘instincts’ often come from a place of seeing the same tropes repeated?

*bites nails endlessly*

Unfortunately (and fortunately), this is NaNowriMo, so you don’t get time to become paralyzed over things. Well, mostly. I freaked for a bit there. I did my best at making their relationship what it is at the very beginning, and all I can do now is edit later.

I’ve just hit ‘Act Two’ (for lack of a better word) in the novel. The first act is messy, just starting to get them to understand each other before I ruin everything, and a little dark. Act Two may be my favorite intellectually because because it’s a huge learning curve for the female protagonist, where she really starts to learn about the people around her and what she could do to help. She starts realizing — the restlessness she’s been struggling with in her previous life has an answer, and it’s here, where she can do the most good.

But it’s a minefield. How do I write from the perspective of the ‘white savior’ without de-centering the perspective of the people who really matter — the indigenous to the region she’s wanting to help?

(I don’t have an answer to that, I’m still working on it)

I actually wrote all of that last NaNoWriMo, so it’s kind of a moot point (editing, editing, editing…) but I am writing from the other POV during this time, which means that I can really start to explore everything that I’m worried about.

*cue paralysis*

This act centers around my female MC escaping and trying to get home. Unfortunately, she had to avoid all sorts of danger from all sides, and my male MC is trying to a) track her down, but b) keep her from harm.

In this, there’s a lot of focus on her. But I can’t make it all about her and her discovery, even though that’s what she’s doing for herself right now, because colonialist trope problems. But, that’s where they are naturally. However, my two protagonists also don’t have contact with each other in Act 2, which means I can really get into the differences of their perspectives and talk about these issues I’m worried about.

I could argue, that in Act 3, it centers a lot more back upon the ‘Indigenous’ voices and how she can assist but doesn’t take over their fight for revolution. So maybe Act 2 doesn’t need to be the make or break. At the same time, since I’m writing from this different POV, I want to give an alternate to ‘white person discovers new culture etc etc etc’ narrative that can shine a light on everything I’m trying to say.

*crickets*

Yeah, I’m worried about it too. The best I’ve got so far is to talk about themes of what ‘white person invaders’ really looks like from the inside, the reactions and otherwise, and try to poke at that whole complicated issue. Can I do this well enough? I’m not sure. (Lord knows I’ll need to hire as many sensitivity readers as I can get my hands on.)

In my heart of hearts, though, I’m worried that the real issue is not the minutia of the story but the concept itself. I’m worried that the very core of the story is flawed for what I’m trying to do. It’s still a story about an invader coming to an indigenous culture and trying to ‘help’ it… it’s still has a romance across this whole complex situation… it still deals with a power imbalance between two civilizations that I probably don’t understand the nuance of.

At the core, I am trying to write about the relationship between societies like this, with environmentalism as its focus. With what I’ve learned about the pitfalls of this, I’m trying to write a story of a ‘good’ ally with an alternative to the normal stories we’ve seen. Am I fudging the problems of writing this while not completely turning it on it’s head? I’m not sure. I can justify my decisions in why elements exist in this story, but I’m not sure I have the talent to do it well enough.

So that’s what I’ve been struggling with during Week One of NaNoWriMo.

After all of this worry and negativity though — writing from the second POV, Zavier’s POV, has been amazing. I love writing him. I probably like him as a character better than my original main character. And I feel like, if I do this right, I can really do something wonderful with this story.

Right now, though, I just need to hammer out these words. Most of these things are issues I’m going to have to figure out during editing, because I’ve already settled on what my core story is going to look like. NaNoWriMo is not the time for redoing everything! And maybe I’ll gain some more insight as I continue writing on how to solve some of this…

ANYWAY. That’s a really long post! How is everyone else feeling this NaNoWriMo?

About R. K. Brainerd

I've been writing since my pre-teens, mostly in the realm of fantasy and sci-fi. Taking interesting concepts and dropping complex characters into fantastical worlds is my jam. I also raise dairy goats and herd cats, the evidence of which can be found on my Instagram. Welcome to the adventure. View all posts by R. K. Brainerd

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