National Novel-Writing Month 2020

I’ll start my third National Novel-Writing Month tomorrow. This year I’ve challenged myself to write some historical fiction based on research that I did while living in Singapore, which has already resulted in a couple of Cockatrice articles on early European activity in Southeast Asia. In view of my other committments for November, and the amount of research I expect I’ll need to do to support the writing, I’ve set a target of 5,000 words per week, which should amount to 21,500 words for November.

I’ve enjoyed quite a bit of historical fiction over the past few years—not to mention having been involved in mediaeval re-creation for twenty years—but this will be my first attempt at writing it. So I’m not expecting great things but I do hope to learn a bit about both a different style of writing and the historical period about which I intend to write.

At a talk at the Central Public Library in Singapore a few years ago, I heard an historical writer (I forget his name) advise his audience that writing an historical novel means living and breathing that historical period for the time it takes to write the novel. Doing some preparation for the writing has already given me an idea of how hard this is: I’ve got a pile of books, academic articles and period sources to read but still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what Southeast Asia might have been like at the time the Portuguese conquered Melaka. And I need to fit it in between a bunch of other things I’m committed to doing.

On one hand I feel like I need to do something like this to get me thinking regularly about my writing again, after a long period in which it has been disrupted by university work, holidays, and taking on system administration for the Society for Creative Anachronism. On the other hand it’s a very difficult thing to do and sometimes I feel exhausted just thinking about it.

But I’ve gotten through the NaNoWriMo preparation exercises now and I’ve made what I hope is a good plan for getting through those 5,000 words each week, hopefully with some resemblance to history. Let’s see what it looks like come 30 November.


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