NaNo Side Effects

I keep feeling guilty about Gift of Blood, my 2009 NaNo novel. I spent last December on a first edit and revision, and then went off to do more interesting things. I picked it up again a few weeks ago, with the intention of getting on with it, but there were still more interesting things to do. It’s not that I’m bored with it or that I don’t intend to polish and publish some day. It’s the novel’s own fault that I’m otherwise occupied.

What happened early this year was completely unexpected. Working on Gift of Blood led me to do some research for something I was having trouble with — sex. How much does the book need, if any? (It turned out that it didn’t need any, just some angsty hints.) And how do I write about it without making it explicit? That research, on writing erotica, told me I wasn’t interested in writing erotica, or even romance, but it did lead me in a direction that was implicit in Gift of Blood — power and its uses. And that led me to domination/submission issues and master/slave relationships. Needless to say, that research took me into some very… let’s just say, strange… territories.

The upshot was my realization that I’ve always been fascinated by the uses of power, and the differences between powerful people and the beneficiaries/victims of their power. And that led to slavery, and to almost a year of stories, including one complete novel, about slavery. No, not that smarmy captive slave girl besmirched by nasty but brutal conqueror with whom she eventually falls in love. Rather, stories that are as realistic as possible, exploring the variations of slavery, its effect on a society and its members, and developing characters who play out their roles of slave or master in psychologically valid and complex ways.

And yes, slavery is one of the central themes of this year’s upcoming novel. So, even if I leave Gift of Blood in its digital drawer forever (not likely), it will have been worthwhile. It was my first NaNo win, and it launched me (finally) into writing fiction and into a year of intense learning. May your upcoming 30 Days of Madness be equally inspiring.

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