Diary of a starter novelist


Week One: Running through themes and roughing out an outline

By Patrick Vaillancourt, Senior Columnist

Patrick Vaillancourt is a political essayist, and is seasoned in the arts of non-fiction writing. His first book, a memoir, is scheduled for publication later this year. He is participating in National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo, for the first time.

Over the past several months, I have been hard at work completing the draft of my first book. It was relatively quick once I committed to writing it a few hours a day, every day of the week. There is no greater feeling of pride and self-worth than completing such a rigorous piece of your own work. In my case, it has just encouraged me to accelerate my writing and take on a new project.

Thankfully, current events in my writing life coincide with the month of November, when many people from around the world participate in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. I am not sure why the event is still billed as a “national” one, when, with over 300,000 writers from dozens of countries around the world, this writing challenge is now evidently global in scope.

I’ve talked about writing a book since I was in my late teens, and I am pleased to say that I have now done just that. It had never occurred to me though that I would take on writing a novel—a lengthy piece of fiction that requires a bit more imagination to complete. I am completely unfamiliar with this genre of writing, and NaNoWriMo may be a great resource to assist me, keeping me engaged and motivated to reach the 50,000 words needed for my draft to be considered novel-length.

As we head into the beginning of November, and the month-long writing marathon that will hopefully see me complete this objective, I am working on a number of themes. I have written them down on index cards and have shuffled the deck to see if I can string together two or more of those themes. Knowing that with fiction I am clearly outside of my writing element, I am trying to outline these themes into a workable framework for a novel. For the most part, I am taking little anecdotes from my own life—interesting stories that can be expanded with fictional characters and events, to create an enticing theme. It appears that, based on the anecdotes I’ve chosen, my novel will be a work of drama and failed romance.

I am also taking advantage of the resources available online, particularly on the NaNoWriMo website, where authors have shared tips and tricks on creating the scene, character and plot development.

Clearly, I have much to learn over the next few weeks as I proceed onward with this adventure. Though the mantra for NaNoWriMo is to not be overly concerned with style, I hope to put together a story that is coherent and interesting, in addition to reaching my word count.



DAYS LEFT TO COMPLETE: 27 (as of production night)