Well, NaNoWriMo 2017 is officially, as one of our MLs put it, The Year of the Slog. Painful going, mitigated by the good turnout at my Saturday-morning write-ins and the surreal silence of our Day of Knockout Noveling in Holland.
I managed to eke a narrow “win” this year. I did something different for this project. For example, it’s (literally) only half-done. This novel consists of two parts: The first half is a series of 15 chapters dotted between 1981 and 2017; each chapter consists of two scenes, one each from both of the two point-of-view characters. The second half—next year’s project, perhaps!—will cover just six weeks in the late summer of 2017, again with a two-scene, 15-chapter design. The whole project should clock in somewhere between 100k and 120k completed words, if I elect to finish it.
In a nutshell: Liz Thompson, an FBI agent, is temporarily reassigned home, to the Grand Rapids field office, to hunt a suspected serial killer. That killer actually exists; he’s Tyler Parker, a formerly abused and bullied kid who transforms (in his own mind) into a vigilante dispensing justice to abusive men who cross his path.
The first half of the novel relates the touch points, in a series of brief and disconnected vignettes, that led two normal, middle-class toddlers to become radically different adults. The second half is a more traditional agent-pursues-killer plot.
The point of the exercise wasn’t really to write a novel. The point was to experiment with long and complex conflict arcs. I’ve learned that one weakness in my fiction has been my tendency to use plot as a series of events that just happen, with conflict being relegated to the sidelines. With this project, I focused on making the conflicts—between Liz and Tyler, between Tyler and his father, between Tyler and his childhood abusers, between Liz and her mother, between the main characters and the passage of time—serve as the key drivers of the story.
For you stats kids out there keeping track of all my NaNo’ing, that puts me at:
- Seven continuous years of participation with “wins” in four of those years (a ~57 percent success rate, making me a better bet than a coin toss).
- Cumulative total of 255,830 validated words.
With all that writing done, I now pivot to reading. I’ve picked up A War Like No Other, the history of the Peloponnesian War as told by Victor Davis Hanson. It’s rather nice to sit in the cozy microfiber recliner in my office, with a feline on the lap and a glass of wine at hand, with some soft Bach playing in the background and the lights dim except for a subtle reading lamp and the glow from the fireplace.
However, I need your help.
I’m working on one of my long-time bucket-list items: I want to compile (and then begin!) a life-long reading list. Not a list of top 10 books or anything that modest. Rather, a comprehensive list of what books are the most worth reading if you have a lifetime to dedicate to the pursuit.
I already have quite a list prepared, although my earlier research is long on antiquity and short on modernity. I am not limiting the list to Western Civ, nor to any time period. Items on the list begin, for example, with the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Book of the Dead and the I Ching and the Odyssey. Also, no genre restrictions.
Share with me what books you think are worthy of the list, either as comments here or in Facebook comments or tweets.