I can't remember if it was Day 5 of my first NaNoWriMo when I first started to realise how much fun writing fiction was, but it sounds about right.
I hope you're there by now, but if you're not, it's coming.
I'm going to try and explain how it feels when I'm having fun writing*. It never happens immediately. I do not bounce out of bed and I do not skip to my chair. But it can happen quickly. It's normally when I'm writing a scene that sees a character go through a big change, development or reaction to something. It could be an event, a discovery or a conversation, but when I'm tapping out words that relay a shift in a person's mind or emotional state, I can feel the change too.
When I write non-fiction, especially travel articles, I find joy in nailling a phrase that captures a place perfectly. I find joy in bringing an article full-circle linking together something I've introduced at the beginning with a conclusion I've made at the end. I even find joy in testing the readability and SEO strength of an article for a client.
I suppose all of that joy and fun comes from satisfaction. But writing fiction is very, very different...
When I was preparing for the first draft of London Eyes I knew I wanted to write a story set in Shepherd's Bush and I wanted to challenge myself to write from the perspective of teenage boys. The story of A to Zed is the result. It sees Theo and Rolly, two fourteen year old boys follow a guy who they think is a bit of a local legend, a drug dealer who they want to get work from. After I set the scene I switched narrators to write from the drug dealer's point of view and I revealed things that Theo and Rolly had no clue about. When the two parties meet at the end and some of the dealer's truths are revealed I found myself laughing out loud. Not because it's particularly funny (no spoilers here) but because I'd joined the dots and I'd taken my characters on a little journey that they were coming to terms with.
When I wrote Shy Feet and I wrote the first draft to All the Beaches are Made of Pebbles, I knew I wanted to write a woman's life of travel through diary entries, scattered across the years. When I wrote the final entry which saw her return to the same place the first entry was written, I felt full of a strange nostalgic energy. When I typed the words that ended the scene I cried. It wasn't that the scene was drastically tragic or moving (again no spoilers here, but it's not) but I had gone on a journey with my diary writer and like I sympathise with characters in a film or in a book I read, I was feeling her feelings and reacting with her. (And yes, I define crying to a good movie as fun. I'm weird like that.)
This may all sound obvious to you. It may all sound downright odd. But I honestly never imagined that writing fiction, i.e. made-up stuff, could move me so much.
I'm sure there are psychological, emotional and scientific reasons why we enjoy writing fiction. Steven Pressfield certainly highlights a few possible explanations, but maybe Toni Morrison says it best of all...
"If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." - Toni Morrison
That's certainly what I'm doing this NaNoWriMo as I battle to write the first draft of a novel that actually began life as a short story in London Eyes. Oh, I just realised I've not yet shared with you what I'm writing. It's called "An Invisible Girl" and is about a girl who keeps vanishing into the streets of London... because that's her job. If it all comes together I'm going to call it a "contemporary urban literary fiction mystery". I'll tell you more about it soon when I give you a "live update" of my own NaNoWriMo progress at the end of Week One.
*Please be very aware that I do not always have fun when I write. For 90% of the writing work I do for clients and easily 50% of the time I'm writing fiction, I am not having fun. I'm engaged, interested and intrigued by the job, but I'm not having fun in a "wild grin on my face" or "tears-snaking-down-my-cheeks" kind of way.
Bookmark this page for NaNoWriMo Daily Inspiration Posts, every day in November 2014.
Frances M. Thompson
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