I love when this happens. I woke up this morning with the solution to the sticky problem I’ve been having with a manuscript I’d all but given up on.
I started a novel back in 2015. This was for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) during that November. And I was making good progress with what I felt was a really interesting storyline. It’s basically the tale of a woman who meet one of her college friends after 30 years of almost no contact, and notices some striking difference in the way she behaves and interacts with everybody around her. It’s about how we connect (ha – no surprises there) and how we perceive others (and ourselves), when we learn new things about them.
Of course, I had to throw in some technology too… so the main character is one of the founders of a startup that’s struggling to finalize it working proof of concept for investors. There’s tension there, too — generational tension, programming languages conflict, even a bit of Emacs vs. Vi contention. How could I resist? 😉
Anyway, I was making really good progress with manuscript some four years ago, and I was sure I was going to be able to get it done by the end of November.
But, of course, life had other ideas, and I ended up getting stalled during the last third of the book. Actually, it wasn’t just life that stalled me, it was the technology piece that I was writing about. At the time, I felt like I had a pretty good handle on the company’s fictional approach. I thought I understood the underlying issues the company was aiming to solve. But the more I got into it, the more I realized I didn’t know. And the less confident I felt writing about that whole piece of it.
It wasn’t something I could fake, without undermining the whole premise of the book.
It’s tricky, right? If you’re going to write about something, you’d better know more than a thing or two about it. You can’t write a novel about dogs if you really aren’t familiar with canine characteristics, behaviors, and all the things that make dogs… dogs. Likewise, you can’t really write about technology if you don’t understand it, especially if you’re writing about a company that’s developing an innovative product that’s going to solve a sticky problem for an entire industry.
That derailed me pretty well, so I tucked the manuscript and my notes into a couple of manila folders and put them on a book shelf where I wouldn’t lose sight of them, but they wouldn’t get in my way. Every now and then, I’d look over at the shelf with a sense of longing… and then get back to what I was doing.
But this morning when I woke up, I found a way through. I realized I could write much better about a completely different type of technology that’s much more familiar to me, and which I really do know inside and out. I understand the ins and outs, the persistent issues, as well as the opportunities a better solution would provide. Heck, I even built a similar solution over 10 years ago, when I was noodling around with some ideas I had.
So now I can take a step back, rewrite the technical pieces, and really flesh out that part of the story in a much more satisfying manner.
The main thing is that I do justice to the story, as well as readers. The last thing I want to do is insult anybody‘s intelligence, and I also don’t want to overreach if I don’t know what I’m talking about it. Some people can fake it, but I’m a terrible liar, and anyway, I’d just as soon write about something I’m intimately familiar with.
So, now I can go back to work on my novel. I’m probably a lot closer to finishing it than I think I am.
We shall see.