A Novel Idea


If every person has a story to tell, why haven’t you written yours? In some form or other, I get that question a lot.

Yes, I’ve always worked for other people, writing and editing their stories and helping them polish their professional reputations by adding “author” to their résumé. The projects are interesting and I really enjoy the creative collaboration.

But every November, National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo, among writers – my thoughts wander back to my own novel, that I started more than a decade ago before setting it aside.

I’d been accepted into a yearlong novel-writing workshop at Fishtrap, an excellent writers’ resource in Eastern Oregon. My idea was to tell the story of a determined young woman who wins a seat in Congress with the support of an often-overlooked constituency – single parents.

It was coming along nicely. I’d finished about 400 pages – when I completely lost interest. The dysfunction that has now overtaken the U.S. Capitol was only beginning, but it was already enough to make me think, ‘What in the world would Helene (my main character) be doing there? She would hate it, and there’s no way she’d get anything accomplished.’

I was describing this dilemma and my frustration about it to a new acquaintance the other day. She said, ‘Well, why would she have to win the election? Why couldn’t she lose – and then see what happens?’

That option had never occurred to me! And I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I even got out my giant notebook of first-draft chapters and have been looking them over. Who knows what NaNoWriMo will bring?