Evangeline Holland

Sweeping Drama ⚜ Larger than Life History ⚜ Exquisite Romance ⚜ Diverse Perspectives
November 9th, 2012

What I’m Reading Now: War Girls by Janet Lee

War Girls by Janet Lee

Fleur Demorest, the heroine of my NaNoWriMo novel is an ambulance driver. There were multiple women’s ambulance units working in France throughout the war (the Voluntary Aid Detachment, the Women’s Reserve Ambulance [Green Cross Corps], the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, etc), but the most famous were the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry. It was founded in 1909 with the aim of creating a unit of nurses who could ride onto the battlefield to administer first aid. The technology of WWI quickly changed the focus from horses to automobiles, and since access to and skill with both horses and autos were the prerogative of the well-to-do and aristocratic classes, the FANY was typically made up of upper middle class and upper class women who could drive and also afford to kit themselves out.

The duties of each ambulance unit were rather similar–ferrying the wounded, meeting hospital trains and ships, knowing a little First Aid, etc–but as Lee points out, the FANY stood out as independent, gutsy, and insouciant in a world where the proper place for a woman was only as a nurse or rolling bandages on the Home Front (the Land Girls, clippies [bus conductresses], policewomen, etc also butted heads with this notion).

Nursing widened the scope of women during WWI, but being able to hop into an ambulance and drive like a man was an even bigger leap, and Fleur’s choice to take this road instead of remaining at home results in her estrangement from her parents. Her unorthodox wartime work also opens her up to gross insinuations…which leads to much angst between her and Ivor!

November 7th, 2012

NaNoWriMo at a Change

The objective of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words between November 1-30. It’s mostly for fun, for the people who’ve always wanted to write a novel but never found the time or courage to do so. However, over the years it has slightly morphed into a time where aspiring authors whip out the first half (or majority of the book, depending on projected word count) of their novel in hopes of publication. Because of this small change in agenda, coupled with the rise of self-publishing, there’s a new pressure to perform during this month.

I joined Savvy Author’s Entangled Publishing Smackdown because I liked the challenge they offered as well as the chance to get a pitch in front of an editor’s eyes. I did all of the preliminary work in late October, and would have been prepared to dive in had I not had the task of revising my manuscript, The Townsend Inheritance. That bled into the first week of NaNoWriMo and I didn’t realize how much energy I expended in writing 6-10k words for seven days straight!! I though that a quick rest over the weekend would be the ticket, but as I entered this week, the words came ugly and sluggishly.

Ay me!, as Juliet exclaims.

I forced out a few hundred words today before I set the MS aside to clear my brain. It also didn’t help that my crazed writing week resulted in a small cold since I was literally running on one or two meals a day in a chilly house–my shoulders, arms and hands also forgot to thank me, lol. Since NaNoWriMo is all about the rah-rah push through the troubled spots/boredom/horrible writing, I was reluctant to admit defeat, especially after writing that epic manuscript and I didn’t want to let my team down. But I felt backed a bit into a corner and couldn’t see a way out unless I chucked the pitch and did something else. That wasn’t an option–my damnable pride!–and so I went to sleep for a few hours (and last night was not fun for me at all). When I awoke I checked Twitter on my phone and saw a listing for an upcoming film on TCM that was set during WWI.

I’m not shy about filching some of my best ideas from my beloved classic films, and I mulled over the premise of that movie for a bit. Even though I’m not normally an angsty writer, I do love the emotions that war or harrowing situations can bring to a romance novel, and based on the premise of my original pitch, this element was missing from the book. In fact, I could have easily shifted the setting to the pre-war years and it wouldn’t have mattered at all. Yet, as we all know, the historical setting should be vital to a historical novel and being able to shift it around shows a bit of a structural weakness. But that’s just my opinion. Anyways, I scribbled down a few ideas to make this plot my own and then realized that the conflict between my protagonists in my original pitch was workable with this new plot–I didn’t have to start from scratch with new characters at all.

Now some may see this as cheating, since you’re supposed to get “crap” on the page no matter what, but I’m seeking publication for this MS and it would defeat the purpose of my writing career to plow on with a book that doesn’t work instead of seeing how to make it work, and within a deadline. What about you? Do you use NaNoWriMo differently since you’re seeking publication? Or do you just go with the spirit of the month-long writing fest?