It's a week into NaNoWriMo and I've written just over 30 thousand words. That's insane; I don't think I've written at that sort of rate since I was a teenager. It's taught me two things: firstly, despite being anal about formal planning I am more productive when I don't and secondly, there's a lot of value in cogitating about an idea for many years.
To clarify, the story I'm writing is largely based on characters and an idea I started to develop 15 years ago. Originally it began as a fantasy short story and then a novella but it never sat well in the genre nor the world I created at the time. Having thought about that for a while, I realise that my earlier attempts were flawed for a number of reasons. In short, many of them were due to the problems inherent in the world I'd created. Like many fantasy worlds, it was a mish-mash of cultures thrown together, many of them were based on real-world analogues. I wasn't disciplined; I was throwing world building elements together with very little regard for the way those cultures developed. Top it off and I didn't even have any magic or other fantasy elements in those stories.
By relocating the characters and story ideas to a historical past (1640s Europe), I'm finding that I can overcome many of the shortcomings and roadblocks that I experienced when I attempted to extrapolate the characters and ideas into a novel.
Sure, I've taken historical licence but I'm trying to stay faithful to macro events and the cultures and customs of the day. In fantasy when you hit a roadblock created by your world it's so tempting to change your world to suit your plot -- often with consequences down the road. Contrast that to historical fiction and I'm finding that I'm changing characters and plot to fit the world.
It's been a lot of fun and a refreshing change from dealing with tired old fantasy settings and using instead a ready-made and much richer and complex canvas than I could ever create.
In fact it's made me pause a moment and think about my approach to other stories I've written previously or are languishing in various stages of development. One that comes to mind is my first novel, Weaver of Dreams which is set in a world that borrows heavily from Celtic myth and Medieval British and Irish history. I could probably redraft that novel as a historical fantasy, perhaps even deviating from past events and creating an alternative history.
Given how much I'm enjoying this novel and how it's reignited my love of creative writing, it's certainly worth consideration.