By Karen DeGroot Carter • November 02, 2020
National Author's Day, November 1, falls at the start of the incredibly popular National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which encourages aspiring authors to write the first draft of a novel in only 30 days. As a published author, I love to see so many people post online that they plan to take advantage of NaNoWriMo to start the novel they've always wanted to write or brush off an old manuscript in order to breathe new life into it.
I began writing fiction when I was in grade school and discovered immediately that writing a solid story requires much more than an active imagination and good writing skills. Since I didn't study creative writing in college, my creative writing education has involved a lot of reading. From short story collections and novels to books on writing, a writer could spend their whole life reading up on what makes a great story work. The trick is to not only learn the tricks of the trade but to apply them as you write and revise and start writing again—over and over and over. Such effort takes a lot of discipline, and from time to time many writers take a break—or convince themselves to quit. The great thing about writing, though, is that it requires only a piece of paper and a pen—it's an art form that's always available to those who want to practice it. NaNoWriMo offers many writers the annual chance to pick up that proverbial pen, kick their writing back into gear, and see where it might take them. The intrigue around what makes novelists tick has been explored in multiple stories through the years. Check out the following during NaNoWriMo or anytime to enjoy unique takes on the wonder and exasperation often experienced by those who pursue the writing life.
Based on the novel Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon, the 2000 comedy of the same title stars Michael Douglas as a creative writing professor who seems to be irrevocably stuck in a mammoth case of writer's block. Also featuring Frances McDormand, Robert Downey, Jr. and Tobey McGuire—as well as original music from Bob Dylan—the film provides a wry glimpse of college writing programs and the idiosyncratic characters who often populate and compete within them.
The 2000 movie Finding Forrester tells the story of a young man who writes in secret and the relationship that grows when a reclusive writer reminiscent of J.D. Salinger takes him under his wing. Finding Forrester has gone down in meme history on social media thanks to a distinct line related to writing uttered by its leading actor, Sean Connery. In a bit of a reverse adaptation, the young adult novel Finding Forrester, based on the movie's screenplay, was published the same year the movie was released.
The story of novelist Iris Murdoch, the award-winning 2001 movie Iris was based on the memoir Elegy for Iris written by Murdoch's husband, John Bayley. Depicting the couple's early and late years and set in the U.K., the film features Kate Winslet and Judi Dench as Murdoch at different periods. While Winslet and Dench were both nominated for Academy Awards for their portrayals, actor Jim Broadbent garnered the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his depiction of Murdoch's husband later in life, when he cared for Murdoch as she suffered from Alzheimer's disease.
Will Farrell wins hearts as a besieged IRS worker who begins hearing the voice of a writer who seems to be writing his life story—which is apparently about to end—in the 2006 film Stranger Than Fiction. As the mystery of who is writing his story begins to reveal itself, Farrell's character finds his predictable life upended by the power and wonder of others' creativity. Standout performances are delivered by Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Queen Latifah, and Dustin Hoffman as well.
Actress Charlize Theron stars as a young adult novelist who eavesdrops on teens in public in the 2011 comedy Young Adult. Questions of whether it's possible for some adults to never really grow up intersect with the day-in-day-out challenges that face a would-be bestselling novelist—especially one with more than one challenging habit to overcome.
Writers who love to write will tell you all the hard work is well worth it. I hope you find a few of these escapes into the writing world enjoyable as we celebrate National Author's Day and enter one of the most challenging—but rewarding—months of the year for so many writers. Because regardless of what they create, when a writer is writing, it's all good.
About the Author: Karen DeGroot Carter (http://karendegrootcarter.com) of Denver is the author of the novel ONE SISTER'S SONG. Her short fiction has been recognized in national competitions, and she's had fiction, poetry, and articles published in various print and online outlets.