Guys, we made it! 26 posts later and I think we've all earned a few cups of pink tea :)
And it's been quite a month - one of my oldest friends got a book deal, which was wonderful news, and Talli's blog vanished, which was not.
But I still have one entry to go, and I want to talk about zeitgeist.
Zeitgeist is a German word that literally means 'time spirit', or the spirit of a particular time period. (I include this fact just to underscore how great the German language is for coming up with new, compound words to explain concepts we all understand but can't name. Schadenfreude, anyone?)
Anyway. We all recognise a book that captures zeitgeist when we see it. I've written a post before on how naming specific kinds of technology - websites, models of mobile phone - can age a novel very obviously. It's a fine line between capturing the reality of our lives today (the existence of mobile phones has done a huge amount, both good and bad, for plotting) and having someone read your book two years from now and think 'Huh. Bebo. So five minutes ago.'
But no one wants to read colourless word-soup with no identifying features either. And people now do Facebook and blog and YouTube and flagrantly use nouns as verbs. It's just how we roll.
In November, I took part in Nanowrimo and hit on an ingenious way to shamelessly pad my wordcount (well, ingenious for me. Every year on the Nano forums, the dirty tricks posted are phenomenal in both number and cunning). I set the book in real time. That meant when I got stuck, I could throw in references to what was in the news that day.
Luckily, November 2010 was an interesting month in Ireland. Our economy was bailed out by the EU because the country was headed for insolvency, and we experienced freak weather.
And when I re-read the novel in 2011, I found that it read like a period piece. Already, so much had happened - the days where we were wondering if there would be a bail-out felt like a distant memory now that we were living with the reality of it.
I also found a ton of stuff that made no sense and had to be cut out. But I left in more than I expected - I explained the situation better, and had characters make fleeting reference to it rather than actually have conversations about it. And I left enough detail that someone who had never heard of the Irish bail-out deal could follow it and see why the characters cared.
It was a very difficult balance but I think I may have got it right. Only my beta-readers will know for sure once I get Draft Two to them.
Personally, I found it helpful to imagine a reader trying to make sense of it in fifty years. We may not use typewriters or telegrams anymore but we can easily understand their function in a story. And fifty years from now, I doubt anyone will care about the IMF bail out - they certainly won't remember the details. We also probably won't remember what Facebook was.
But if we get across the essential nature of something - whether a means of sharing information and communicating publicly, or an economic threat to a small island shaped like a teddy bear - then it shouldn't matter if the nuts and bolts are dated.
If you made it this far - well done! It was wonderful to meet so many new bloggers this month and I'll be popping back to the lists of participants to find new people to visit :)