Trees turning color. Falling leaves. Pumpkin spice lattes. Autumn squash soup. A nip in the air. Trick or Treat. NaNoWriMo.
Yep, National Novel Writing Month is right around the corner. November 1 begins 30 days of writing madness to produce 50,000 words. My first NaNoWriMo was in 2008, a year before I retired from federal service. I was still on travel status, and I managed 50,000 words in 17 days because I was traveling the other 13. I’ve produced a rough draft (I won’t call it a novel; that takes time.) a year ever since. This year will be lucky number 13, and so far it hasn’t been that lucky.
Unlucky Number 13
The first hint this might not go well this year was midsummer, when rumors abounded that there wouldn’t be NaNoWriMo 2020 because of the pandemic. In early fall, the parent organization messaged those of us who are municipal liaisons (regional coordinators, as it were) that in-person meetings and write-ins were no-nos this year. NaNoWriMo was still a go, but it would have to be very different from what we’re accustomed to.
In the case of my region in the Shenandoah Valley, that’s multiple in-person write-ins at coffeeshops and libraries. So, we’re making the switch to all on-line events using Facebook and ZOOM.
Of course, at this point I had no clue what I was going to write about. I have a bunch of NaNoWriMo rough drafts lying about. Some of them have made it to publication after much rewriting and editing. Others are waiting their turn. This year, nothing much inspired me, and I was thinking my streak would be interrupted at twelve.
Along came my stalwart editor to remind me there was a secondary character of mine she’d love to know more about. I’d featured this character as the primary in several stories, I responded. No, said stalwart editor, “I want a whole book on her.”
Well, then, one must keep one’s editor happy.
Why Don’t You Write a Memoir?
I’ve been asked that a lot. I was lucky to have had an interesting career where I participated in the aftermath of headline-making events. (That’s all I’m saying.) However, the rest of my life is about as boring as it gets. That doesn’t mean things didn’t happen; they did, but they weren’t noteworthy. I have a life story; I’m simply not inclined to share it.
But it struck me–if I’m going to devote 50,000 words to a secondary character, why not…write it in the form of a memoir?
The character is Olga Lubova, who, if you’ve read my books, you know as the ex-KGB colonel who is the au pair/bodyguard for Alexei Bukharin’s granddaughter. Lubova has been part of almost every book published so far and, as I said, several short stories.
Now, however, we’ll get to know her from birth to… Well, we’ll have to see. In present day, she’s 81 years old. It may be time for her to rest.
The working title is For My Country (Dlya Moyey Strany in Russian), and it will involve the thing I love to do most besides writing–researching. As in, researching the history of the KGB and its training methods because that was Olga’s primary job in the KGB: training high-value operatives, among them Alexei Bukharin.
In fact, almost as soon as I decided to write the memoir of a fictional character, I started reading The Sword and the Shield by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin. Mitrokhin was a KGB archivist who defected and brought his notes with him. He was, apparently, a detail-oriented archivist, and western intelligence agencies learned a great deal about the inner workings of the KGB, including KGB assets in several western governments.
Unlucky Number 13 – Again
I set up a file in Scrivener, the program I use for composing, aka writing, made a chapter for each day of NaNoWrimo, set a word count limit for each day (1,667 words a day for 30 days gets you past 50,000), and began making notes from my research, including backstory on Olga’s father and mother and a skimpy timeline.
So, imagine my horror–and yes, for a writer, this is a horror–when I went to open that file to update it, only to discover it doesn’t exist. It’s not in any of my usual file folders, it’s not in Trash, it’s not in The Cloud. It’s gone. The only thing I can figure is that I must have left Scrivener open and that file open and my OS did an update, wiping it out.
I’ve searched on every word I can think of. Nothing. A good two weeks worth of prep gone.
Who knows? Maybe reconstructing it will make it better. However, the one thing I won’t do is throw up my hands, say “Screw pandemic NaNoWriMo,” and take November off.
See you on November 1, writing away!