Why I'm NOT writing a novel this November

Thousands of people around the world, including quite a few of my blogging buddies, are taking a shot at writing fiction this month - and why not? November has been National Novel Writing Month - NaNoWriMo for short - for over a decade, and a multitude of eager writers have signed up and set themselves the goal of producing a 50,000-word novel by the end of the month, encouraging and giving feedback to one another along the way. This year, my 16-year-old stepdaughter is among them.

It's great to have a support group for an effort like this. It's ambitious, it's admirable...and it's not for me. Never say never, but for the second year in a row, I'm publicly saying NO to NaNoWriMo.

I love to read, and I love to write. Also, I love to write about what I read, otherwise my "primarily but not exclusively books" blog would never have been born. I think there are some truths about life and humanity and why we are the way we are that are best explored through fiction. I think that fiction can help us identify themes in our own lives. I enjoy vicariously experiencing lives that are different from my own, and finding things that make them feel not so different. I respect the creativity and imagination that can invent characters and storylines and situations that capture my mind and my emotions.

One reason that I respect it is that I'm pretty sure I don't have it.

I love the novel, and I think it deserves to be considered at the peak of creative endeavors, but my own creative impulses just don't go in that direction. Characters don't speak to me and urge me to tell their stories, and while I can imagine and craft a scene or two and some dialogue every now and then, I don't see them going anywhere or filling into a larger story structure.

I've learned over the last couple of years that the kind of writing I most enjoy doing - and that I seem to be pretty competent at - is the sort of thing I do on my blog, and sometimes in other places online. It's personal essays and news reports. It's the occasional topical op-ed piece, and the frequent cultural discussions (that would be the book and movie reviews). Despite my tendency toward long-windedness at times, it's short-form writing. It allows for creative expression, but it's rooted in my everyday life. It gives me enough room to maneuver to satisfy me, and I think it'll keep satisfying me for a while longer. While I love reading fiction, I just don't feel a yearning to produce it; nonfiction writing feels like my niche.

With that realization, I'm putting the goal of writing the Next So-So American Novel to rest...for now. But as I said, never say never, so I'll check back next November and see if that's still the case. Who knows? Maybe I'll be on speaking terms with some characters by then.



Blogging at The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness

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