Yesterday, I finished National Novel Writing Month for the fourteenth year in a row! This year’s story was titled An Englishwoman in Hollywood, and was the fifth instalment in my historical fiction series which began with the Titanic in 1912, and went on to cover the Lusitania, the Russian Revolution, and some adventuring in Egypt in the 1920s. With the 1930s being the natural next step, it seemed a perfect opportunity to write a story set in Golden Age Hollywood – plus, if I set it in 1937, I could throw in the Hindenburg disaster as well.
Before November started, somebody in the NaNoWriMo group on Facebook commented on how they had completed NaNoWriMo so many times that they needed some way to spice things up and make it less straightforward. Well, other people may see it differently, but even after so many years, despite having a good idea of what works and doesn’t work for me, I’ve never found NaNoWriMo to be easy. Finding the time isn’t necessarily difficult if November is going smoothly, but keeping up so much writing for 30 days takes effort and forward planning. And as it turned out, this November didn’t go particularly smoothly. I caught a bad cold; I had some real-life commitments to deal with; I had a couple of days where I was so stressed that any creative function in my brain temporarily shut down. Then, in the last weekend of the month when I was planning to make a big push and finish before Monday, I strained my shoulder, which made it very uncomfortable just to sit at a computer and type.
On top of that, I was struggling to maintain consistent enthusiasm for my story. Beforehand, as well as the historical aspect, I was interested in how my protagonist, Sylvia, was going to develop this time round; with her now being in her forties, I had her experiencing a mid-life crisis, combined with various family and professional woes. For instance, her daughter Sophie, a sweet little girl in the previous story, is now a moody, opinionated teenager. My feelings about writing such character development scenes tended to vary: sometimes they were interesting, but other times it all felt a bit gloomy. The middle of the story sometimes felt unclear to me as well, and I ended up skipping back and forth a lot between individual scenes I felt like writing on a particular day.
In the end, it was a crawl over the finish line – but I crossed the line regardless.
Congrats, R.J.! I admire the dedication all these years!