Category: musings

National Novel Writing Month: Early Surprises

Posted 9 November, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in musings

Most of us are aware that every November for the past 14 years has been not about college football or turkey, but about writing. I probably have been wanting to do NaNoWriMo for the past ten or so, but I’ve always had a reason not to. Most recently it’s been law school, before that it was enjoying the last few months I was going to have with my husband before basic training, then it was being a new airman stationed overseas… I always had a reason. That was until this year. I’m unemployed, my husband and I are transitioning from active duty military back to civilian life, I can’t even start to look for work until December so this year, I decided to write.

I realize the month isn’t over and these words are not being added to my word count, but I feel compelled to write this. I’m a ridiculous reader. Reading for me is akin to breathing. I’m talking about reading for pleasure. I had friends in law school or in grad school that didn’t read a book for pleasure for three years or more. The idea of doing that is insanity to me, don’t get me wrong, I love those guys and most of them did better than me academically, but I need that escape.

So, I’ve read a lot of books and articles about writing books too and one of the seemingly universal things that fiction authors seem to say is that they have no control over their characters or their stories, that they’re along for the ride. I want to make a confession, I’ve always thought that was bullshit. Then I started down this NaNoWriMo path…

I’m currently about 22,000 words in to the 50,000 needed to ‘win’. This is about 45 single spaced typed pages. I started November with a silly concept of a YA novel with a spunky girl and a mysterious manicurist who speaks very little but gives flashes of psychic power to our heroine to help her ultimately solve crimes. It was going to be light, fun, and ultimately turn into a multi-million dollar franchise with movie options. But seriously, I was just writing to write. It didn’t matter if it sucked but I was going to have fun with it.

Well less than 10,000 words in somehow that whole plan evaporated. My main character, instead is dealing with mental illness, awful parents, and a little brother who is growing up aimless. The manicurist is nowhere to be found anymore.

This story isn’t autobiographical, though I have experience with some of those things, but regardless the writing has been painful, putting down some of the things that my main character is experiencing is one of the most uncomfortable things that I’ve ever done. While I still feel compelled to tell my main character’s story, part of me dreads it. I’ve been averaging about 3,000 words a day, I have no problem with the words coming but telling this story (though completely fictional) makes my heart ache.

I always expected that writing a novel would be hard, but the pain has been something completely unexpected for me. I expected to not be sure about plot points or to struggle with not knowing the intricacies of nail salons. I guess I expected my struggle to be more technical and less personal. I don’t know if that says something about me, my novel, or both.

How has NaNoWriMo surprised you?


April @ The Steadfast Reader



Mental Health Monday: Personal Thoughts

Posted 22 October, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in musings

So, it’s almost Halloween again and inevitably the Haunted Insane Asylums are cropping up, just like they always do.

I’m pretty neutral towards Halloween. I don’t hate it, but I’ve never been super excited about it like some people. I think it’s usually good clean fun with some make believe and a sack of candy that used to last me six months out of the year. But I’m also a believer that how we talk about things can lead to societal ‘norms’ regarding that thing. In short, words matter. Art matters. How we portray ‘insane asylums’ (see now: Behavioral Health Centers) – even in jest or fun during the Halloween season matters. Too often it leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

I know, I know! Everyone is tired of political correctness, and I agree too it can get in the way of innocent fun, but we have such a deep and terrible stigma against mental health in the United States that it is important that we change our thinking to understand that mental illness is just as serious and just as real as cancer and diabetes.

I just Googled ‘Haunted Cancer Wards’ I got zero hits back for a haunted house style cancer ward. My theory – people understand and respect that cancer is a real and tragic disease that individuals and their families must deal with – it’s not something to be made light of, it’s also not something that cancer patients CHOOSE to go through.

The National Alliance For Mental Illness (NAMI) states that suicide accounts for the deaths of nearly 30,000 Americans a year, and that 90% of people who commit suicide suffer from a mental illness. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. So, yeah, it’s a pretty big problem.

Here’s my point. I feel like that be creating ‘haunted insane asylums’ creates fear of mental patients in the ‘general population’. At best this is counterproductive and at worst actually harmful. One in four Americans suffer from mental illness and by portraying ‘mental patients’ as scary lunatics out for blood, murder, and mayhem furthers the stigma and may prevent people from getting the help that they need — because they think that they’re mental health recovery experience will result in a loss of control of their personal decisions and sanity, which more often than not is not true.

Anyway, just some feelings. I hope it’s not too soapbox-y. What are your thoughts? Am I too uptight? Spirited debate encouraged! 🙂

April @ The Steadfast Reader