Well, I’ve just barely made my daily 1,667-word NaNoWriMo goal. I maintained the cushion that I built up during the first three days, but I’ve only added 10 words to it, unless I write some more before bed tonight. Given that this was a weekend day, 1,677 seems like a disappointment.
The novel is coming along OK, but I’m wishing I had picked a different premise. Even though it’s fiction, and I’m trying in various ways to make the lead character different from me, I keep circling back to my own personality, my own fears, my own private struggles. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; the novel can be more cathartic than marketable. A few NaNoWriMo novels have been professionally-published, but it’s really not about churning out the next New York Times best-seller so much as it is about personal challenge and the discipline of writing. And no novel written at such a breakneck pace is going to be very good without a lot of editing.
Even so, it’s a motivating factor if you feel like there’s something good about what you’re writing, and so far I’m worried that this is going to have all of the most self-indulgent qualities that went into my Bad Self-Published Novel (which also started with NaNoWriMo).
There’s something to be said for writing what you know, and there have been some terrific writers who have put their own personality traits, real or imagined, into classic fictional heroes and heroines. But that can also turn maudlin and self-serving very quickly. And if the novel gets too personal, I may not want to show it to others anyway.
With “Soapstone,” the main character was obviously based on me, but I worked very hard to make sure that none of the other characters (with the exception of the Kenyan minister and his wife) were based on any specific person with whom I’d been in mission. I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I specifically made it clear in the notes at the end of the book that none of Jeff Doermann’s mission trip teammates were based on any of my specific mission trip teammates. But I still sometimes have friends ask me if, for example, Schuyler was based on this person or that one.
That’s another trouble with a character who seems partially based on me but who is also partially fictional. People might wonder which attribute falls into which category.
I’m plowing ahead for the moment, but I’m less and less convinced that I’ll be able to rework this into something marketable after NaNoWriMo has ended.
Speaking of “Soapstone,” by the way, I offered it for free Kindle download on Nov. 1, to celebrate the beginning of NaNoWriMo. The Kindle program for self-publishers allows you up to five days a year for such promotional giveaways. The idea is that hopefully someone will review the book on Amazon or recommend it to their friends, although there’s still not a single review of “Soapstone,” either the print or Kindle versions, after several years on the Amazon site. That may be a good thing, all told.
I mentioned the Nov. 1 giveaway briefly in a blog post a week or two ago, but I intended to call it to everyone’s attention again on Nov. 1, or maybe the night before. I completely forgot to do so. It looks like 126 people stumbled across the book and downloaded it that day for free anyway. I also have one sale in Kindle format this month, which is a good thing, although far from the minimum threshold before they’d actually pay me any profit.