on writing a novel in a month

thoughtsharing* by Ramya Yandava, ’17

     November is National Novel Writing Month, which means I am subjecting myself to the same torture for the fourth year in a row. Why I am, I don’t know; I have never managed to actually win NaNoWriMo (i.e. write 50,000 words in a month), although every year, I begin with a sort of foolish optimism, telling myself that of course this’ll be the year and that I can totally manage to write 50,000 words in between schoolwork, studying, extracurriculars, and college applications. The first of my NaNo problems is that I have been trying to write the same novel for the past four years. The second (and more pressing) problem is that I do not actually know what the plot of this novel is. In 2013, it was from the point of view of a streetlamp. Last year, it centered around the murder of a young girl. This year, I decided to just start writing something and see where that would lead me.

     A few days ago, however, I  began to experience a near-existential crisis on behalf of the novel. I lost faith in the novel, became disillusioned with it, re-read it and and cringed. During this crisis, I have tried to figure out where the problem in coming up with a plot lies. Is it my lack of life experience? Is it my indecision, an inability to choose between all the various plots I’ve come up with over the years because to choose one means to lose the others? Is it this pressing need to write something “meaningful,” so much so that any plot sounds silly and arbitrary? In a very vague sense, I know, and have known for years, what this story is about – I know the aesthetic and mood of it, the themes I want to explore with it, the ideas I want to put forth. But between this cesspool of vague abstraction and the hard, cold reality of the written word is a kind of shadow realm I have to learn how to traverse, like trying to reach a hand into the darkness to draw out some light.

     Perhaps I won’t find the light this year. Maybe I won’t even find it next year. But every time I try, it becomes a little more lucid. Something more is illuminated. Little by little, I begin to perceive the shapes of these amorphous forms. I put my hand back in the darkness. I try again.

     And hey, if I fail this November, at least 7,000 words is a start.

* “Thoughtsharings” are pieces of art, usually writing, in which members of the Red Ink staff and Wellesley High School community share their ideas and beliefs, with a particular emphasis on people’s thoughts about events and circumstances surrounding their current lives. Check right here on our website for regular thoughtsharings! *


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