SUBJECT: Books & Writing
A weekly blog post dedicated to my NaNoWriMo 2019 reflections!
Profile Name: samiabossee
Title: The Dream Chasers Society
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pinterest Board: Dream Chasers Novel
50,000 words by November 30th Make a conscious effort to write
Summary: Mina Hashmi’s loose interest in the subconscious expands when she gets bizarre, recurring dreams. With the help of her wise Nani’ama, her cute Trig TA Darren, and her own resilience, she unlocks a power in her dreams that originates from the women of the Abbasid Dynasty in ancient Baghdad, Iraq.
NOVEMBER 29TH, 2019 | NANOWRIMO WRAP-UP
Week 3&4 Word Count Total – Novel: 6,550/50k | Blog: 4,911/5k
Although I wrote less than 10,000 words for The Dream Chasers Society, I would still consider NaNoWriMo a successful attempt. This month was turbulent; I learned a lot about myself as a person and writer. Not only that, I explored the business-side of writing and that has changed how I view my novel’s timeline. Instead of feeling rushed to finish it, I’m thinking of how I can make my novel succeed in the long-term. The combination of books I read and things that happened this month caused me to feel less attached to the words I’ve written—in a good way. I’m still hesitant to attempt writing from scratch again, but that could be a beneficial way to kickstart my new plans for the story.
I did a lot of brainstorming for NaNoWriMo. My writing journal has so many ideas and questions since this past summer. A lot of the recent entries explore the background mythology of dream-weaving, the intentions of my characters, and asking myself “What if??” to draw out new ideas. I haven’t ventured into outlining the middle of my novel; it feels stuck because I don’t quite know what I want the plotline to be. I now know that I can think of so many ideas, but I won’t make actual progress until I wade through the messiness of writing my first draft.
I’ve been watching more booktube lately. It’s been cool to see what people like and don’t like about certain plot-lines or see too much of in popular fantasy books. I want to make The Dream Chasers Society something that I’d actually want to read. It’s good to keep a healthy distance from our writing or note the patterns we fall into to understand what makes content enjoyable and gripping. The kind of story that keeps you up at night; you keep reading even though your eyes are dry and strained. That differs from person to person, of course. Books that are popular may not actually be that good objectively, but they often have a very unique premise, are well-marketed, and released at the right timing to evoke a strong response from readers.
My writing wish list for The Dream Chasers Society:
- Protagonist has complex feelings toward religion and deals with nuanced stakes to her decisions
- Each scene, flashback, and mythological story feels purposeful
- The girl and the boy are attracted to each other but remain friends
- The villains have a complex origin—not evil for the sake of evil, but rather, something actually happened, and the “good guys” could have been at fault
- Whimsical, fun exploration of setting but grounded in the protagonist’s voice
- Parents who are complex and are not stereotypes of South Asian Muslim parents; they have complex intentions
A part of me wonders if I’m not cut out for writing a novel. I have this idealized perspective of how writers stay energized and determined with their writing by working on their craft every day and setting schedules. But it doesn’t look the same for me. While doubt is present, I also know that I’m a storyteller—that I get through life because of books. I can feel bad about not writing every day, but I know that I’m figuring out so many areas of my life all at once. I want to quit simply because it feels draining to think about writing but not actually writing. Even so, I need to be patient with myself and keep reframing my goals and intentions with writing. There was a moment during my senior year of high school where I told myself that it’s okay if I don’t end up publishing a novel; I wanted writing adapt to every stage of my life and be a fulfilling, nourishing part of who I am. That is something I want to center in my life in 2020. As a writer, you produce stories for the world, but what stories do you keep secret for yourself? –S.A.
NOVEMBER 15TH, 2019 | NANOWRIMO WEEK 2 UPDATE
Word Count Week 2 Total – Novel: 2,936/50k | Blog: 2,252/5k
No, I haven’t been writing every day for at least 30 minutes, but yes, I’ve been making progress on how I approach my writing. Last week, I found myself Googling “When to give up on writing a story,” and reading thoughtful answers. I’m thinking about shelving Dream Chasers Society after NaNoWriMo, because I haven’t been making tangible progress with it in the past 4 months. I feel like taking a break from it is warranted: What if the story doesn’t want to be told right now? Why should I keep agonizing over it? At the same time, I don’t want to use that as an excuse to not be persistent and challenge myself to move past the obstacles I’m facing with my story. I feel like I’m not enjoying writing as much as I should be and can benefit from writing a fresh idea. All of this can be considered practice, though, and contributes toward becoming a better writer.
This week, I figured out some new ideas to push past the stagnancy I feel about the first 50 pages of my novel. To give some context: I did 2 rewrites of the first couple of chapters in college, and I did a partial rewrite this past summer that gets me closer to where I want it to be. However, it still makes me feel stuck when I go to write the next part where Mina’s dream-weaving abilities manifest. There are most likely issues with the set-up of the first 50 pages that are making it hard for me to move forward and conceptualize the middle of the novel. With that in mind, I changed my novel from “In Progress” to “Prepping” so I can get in the mindset of writing more backstory scenes about the mythology of the world, Mina’s childhood memories, her connection to dreams prior to her powers manifesting, and explore concepts by asking “What if?” & outlining ideas. Reading The Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty has been very inspiring, especially when thinking about YA fantasy novels with expansive world-building.
I also want to give a huge shout-out to my good friend and writing confidant Grace Deaton. She is a senior at Mills College (Creative Writing & Econ double-major), working on the second draft of her amazing space story. Grace won NaNoWriMo last year and has participated in previous years. We decided to do weekly Skype sessions to catch up and talk about where we are in our works in progress. We both realized that the NaNoWriMo structure isn’t necessarily conducive to our stories right now, so we’re creating flexible action items to hold each other accountable to our stories. This week, I was tasked with figuring out an “aha!” moment with my story, and Grace has to outline/work on the back-story of her plot. I really appreciate that Grace and I can talk about the logistical and emotional factors of living a writerly life in a candid and supportive way. Grace is doing her senior thesis in Creative Writing next semester, and I’m so proud of the work she’s doing. :’) –S.A.
NOVEMBER 7TH, 2019 | WEEK 1 UPDATE
Word Count Week 1 Total – Novel: 1,169/50k | Blog: 1,171/5k
Two things happened in the past three days that were very interesting: 1.) I saw a book coming out next year titled “The Dream Weaver,” which is what a person is called when they wield a certain dream power in my novel (dream-weaving is the name of the dream power). To clarify, “The Dream Weaver” is a realistic/middle grade/fiction novel and the kind of dream being explored is the aspiration/goal kind. I’m sure it will be a wonderful book and very different from my story. I did initially feel a sinking feeling when I saw the title, though. And 2.) I read “Beyond the Black Door” which has similar elements to my story. It’s about walking through souls while sleeping, and the souls look like houses, with doors as a significant motif.
Of course, this is all perfectly okay, but I definitely thought about it a lot. I know that writers tend to have similar ideas but develop them very differently. There can’t be just one book about a particular subject or identity. I feel pretty humbled right now. Sure, my story is a great idea, and while it has some unique elements, it’s not entirely a unique story. Right now, I feel like it can go in so many directions and I’m scared to chart my course and go down a pathway. I don’t want it to feel fixed to a plot-line that doesn’t reflect its potential in my imagination. I should be excited, though! That’s the whole point of a first draft: to explore, get the most out of ideas without the pressure of it being good, and to see what works best. Overall, it’s helped me reframe my mindset during this first week of NaNoWriMo to not feel so stagnant about my work.
NaNoWriMo 2019 is off to a slow start for me, as you can imagine. I was disappointed with my lack of productivity, but I’m starting to feel more hopeful. I realize that 1700 words a day isn’t realistic for my current writing stamina, and the word count goal makes me feel more pressured than motivated. Here are some new goals I wish to center this month:
- Write for 30 minutes a day! At least that!
- Have a major “AHA!” moment with my plot-line
- Enjoy creative writing again (I want to make a distinction with other forms of writing I do, because I love blogging/journaling)
- Write 5,000 words for my blog this month (roughly 4-5 blog posts)
- Reduce social media, YouTube, and TV consumption
Hoping for a more story-filled second week! –S.A.