Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo

I should probably give a quick explanation for what NaNoWriMo is. It’s short for National Novel Writing Month, takes places in the month of November, during which time you try to write a novel- which is about 50,000 words. That’s the quick explanation. You can do a lot of variations, because it’s a wonderfully relaxed challenge- though fortunately not so relaxed or bizarre (for me) that I forget about it. You can go on working on an old story, do poems instead, write several short stories and, of course, challenge yourself to a different goal.

I always look forward to November, or the last few Novembers, since finding out about NaNoWriMo. It’s actually the reason why I realized I wanted to write as a profession, because I was looking forward to it a great deal.

Obviously it takes a lot of preparation. You want to know what you’re going to write, know enough of the steps you want to take to get to 50,000 (or the end of the story), which could be anything from basic character developments and plot turns, to extensive and obsessively detailed outlines of everything from the plot, to characters to every scene.

I will be writing the third part of a trilogy about the Civil War and time traveling. It’s been a little more complicated because I have to know enough about history to be able to be comfortable (which is technically still an issue) among many other details.

This story was even harder because my main character develops Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s a fascinating and complicated subject, but I wanted to know it well enough so that I didn’t have to look at my notes every single page, as well as- more importantly- being able to write it so it didn’t sound staged.

So, I started studying PTSD some time last year, hoping to be able to write this story last November. That didn’t happen, because I still didn’t know the subject well enough, and it’s taken me that long to feel comfortable with it and like I vaguely know what I’m talking about, which is much longer than it usually takes me to study a subject. (I’m actually sorry to admit that, sense it seems like I ought to be studying such things for years, all the time, as well as editing for months and months)

It’s been interesting working on it, actually. I’ve had to go back and change several things to fit with this final, unpleasant development. Here is a short example of what I had to change. My main character, Mark, is outside the battlefield of Gettysburg, it’s nighttime:

“The young man laid down against a tree. He covered his ears and tried to get some much needed sleep amidst the fighting.”

That was the original. Here is the revised version:

“The young man laid down against a tree. He tried to get some much needed sleep amidst the fighting.”

Leaving out the part about him covering his ears I think implies that he is mentally blocking out the trouble around him. He is in a state of mind where he’s been put into a situation he’s certainly never faced and isn’t used to dealing with, and he doesn’t want to fully deal with the idea of the magnitude of death, so, whether he realizes it or not, Mark is shutting off a part of his brain so that he can act and work in this situation. He doesn’t fully realize what’s happening.

Hopefully this makes sense according to the symptoms of PTSD. Of course, if any of you that read this know anything about PTSD or know someone that does, please let them see this and tell me what they think.

So, anyway, I think I know enough so I am going ahead and writing the ‘fun’ stuff next month. I encourage anyone that’s interested in NaNoWriMo to plan for it, even if you’re not writing a character that’s dealing with PTSD.

Now this next month is going to be even more interesting than usual. My Dad is out of a job. Enough said, I think. Basically, my fellow author sisters and I will, in addition to the usual craziness of writing a novel in a month and of course Thanksgiving, we will be dealing with the emotional and mental problems of unemployment. November’s going to be interesting, but I want to enjoy it.

I have only a few important things to say before I finish this post. First of all: to all those people with PTSD or who had PTSD or know someone that has it, especially veterans, I have a new understanding of it. I cannot express easily or quickly overall everything I feel about it. God bless you and I am praying for you.

And secondly, to anyone that’s experienced unemployment, basically I owe you an apology. For some reason I never thought I would have to go through it- it was one of those things that happened to other people. Now I know how hard and unpleasant it is, especially when there’s no end in sight. So sorry, and I pray, for those that are unemployed, that you will soon get a job.

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