Want to learn how little you know? Write a book.

Today is the first day of National Novel Writing Month, and this is the eighth time (at least I think it is) that I have participated. I’ve completed the 50,000 words in 30 day challenge five times.

The first time I did it, I started two days late, and finished it in 17 days. A new world’s record of sorts. The result wasn’t my best work, but that wasn’t the point. I learned all kinds of things, including the fact that I could, indeed, write a book in the middle of teaching classes, could write 50,000 words in 30 days on demand and, of all things, could write a steampunk novel.

But this time is a little different. I’m writing a book that I have been thinking of writing for several years, one that I have hesitated to write because it’s out of my normal genre. It’s one of those books that intimidates you when you think about how good it could be if you do it right, and how horribly, horribly wrong it could go if you mess it up. I’m writing a historical novel.

I just got done reading The Grapes of Wrath. Great book. Afterward, I learned that John Steinbeck wrote the 200,000 word novel in 100 days, which boggles my mind. That’s 2,000 words a day, which isn’t really that much if you know what you’re doing, and you’re not planning on writing the Great American Novel. But the problem is, this one actually was.

Now I’m learning how much I don’t know about segregation, about the 1920s, about being black in America, about World War I, about the Dust Bowl and about the Great Depression. I have a long haul ahead of me. I want this book to be good. There’s a very good chance I won’t write 50,000 words in the next 30 days. But I’m more concerned about getting this book right.

I’ll keep you posted, and give you a sneak peek now and then.

More later.