Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Newest Novel - Dutch-in-Law 2017

Maybe I'm totally crazy to even consider it, but I log into the familiar blue and white NANOWRIMO website anyway. National Novel Writing Month? Sure, I may be about twenty weeks pregnant, living in a fixer-upper house overseas, and spending my days as expat mother and wife, but why not start writing a new novel this November?

I'm sure the first people who signed up for the NANOWRIMO challenge were crazy too. And the people who first had the idea to turn the international, vague dream of "Write a novel some day" into a website with definable numbers and a voracious writing community. I didn't know anything of the sort existed until a few years ago, and now I enthusiastically sign up for almost every new session or 'camp' throughout the year. But the big pull is, of course, the month of November, when people around the world look at the slogan on the site header, "The world needs your novel," and decide it's somehow true. 

The site 'opens' a little before the all-important month, so today I log in and get started. I click through the "Create Your Novel" link, and pause at the blank space for a title. The last few times I've just used, and reused, the title "Dutch in Law", adding numbers after it. I think now I'm up to 3 or 4? But they're little more than drafts, hardly novels ready to make their way into the world. And they're mostly in journal form, and I don't know if that would even be marketable. Thinking about actually trying to publish anything slams me into a sort of mental wall. So I don't. I just leave them in neatly marked folders in my computer and in the cloud, vaguely intending to do something with them someday. But this time through, I kind of want to try something different. I'll still keep journaling, I think, but I think it would be fun to write some sort of a manual for living in Holland. Of course, there's no one-size-fits-all guide to any city, let alone country. But I could write the sort of guide I would have wanted, as a young newlywed, married to a Dutchie and trying to adapt here. And what I didn't experience, I could still write about from the experiences of others. 

And even if no one ends up reading this novel except for me, and family, it will still be fun to write. And a challenge, given how my life looks these days. 

"Dutch In Law: The Manual" I type into the title bar. Novel genre? If I were to publish it on Kindle, I'd probably put it in the international genre, maybe women's fiction. Here I settle for "mainstream." Then it's time to write a short synopsis. 

Of course, there's no one-size-fits-all guide to any city, let alone country. But there are things about living in Holland that every Dutch-in-Law should know, things every expat should at least have a nodding acquaintance with. Like the little metal circles that are the key to a smooth grocery shopping session. Or who or what the Wilhelmus is. Chocolate sprinkles for breakfast? Biking hand signals? A chipcard?The iconic rabbit that seems to be everywhere? Welcome to the Dutch-in-Law manual. 

It's a start, at least. I click "Create Novel" and make a mental note to come up with some sort of cover for it. I browse through the page titled "Your Novels", where I can see the last three I made in Novembers before. Each has a golden badge in the corner, with the word "Winner" on it. That's one of the beauties of the site: the big, scary, brilliant goal of 50,000 words for a novel. Some of the seasonal sessions have options for setting a goal word count, or even setting an hour goal for editing or revision. It's nice to have the flexibility, especially when life is crazy or it's more important to work on a past project than on a new one. But, unless they've changed the main site too, the 50,000 word goal is huge and intense. Split across days (and visible on the convenient charts and graphs), it means an average of 1,667 words a day. I normally average about 500 these days, for comparison's sake. And it takes me about half an hour; during past NANO's I probably spent two to three times that, and used Pippin's naptime as writing time. But now I need that afternoon slot for my own naps, if not for my freelance editing projects and housework. 

These days I generally try to write after my little guy goes to bed at 8pm, with the last of a day's energy before I go to bed myself. Which is just one more reason I'm probably crazy to start a new novel this month. I'll have to figure out a new time to shape words and ideas into some sort of a coherent novel, despite pregnancy exhaustion, to-do lists, and social obligations. So, really, why not? 

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