This Novel, Day 3

leavesinfall2Every time I start a new novel is another chance to meet more characters for the first time. It’s always interesting to me how they show up partially formed on the page, and then they transform themselves the more I write, twisting and gyrating like snakes until they emerge completely whole in the course of the re-writes. But right now, 3 days in, is the time for growing pains, and some pretty big ones.

Normally I leave my titles until last, but I have to have a working title in order to save the file, and to post my updates on the NaNoWriMo site, for all the maniacs like me who are spending this month falling in love with a new story. So my working title is Leaves in Fall, and I created a cover that I like more and more each time I look at it. I have to keep reminding myself, though, that I am no more tied to it than a traveling ranch hand is to the person who used to pay him.

Eventually I will probably move on from the both the working title and the cover that comes along with it, but the characters will live forever, so I want to do right by them. And until now I’ve set my stories primarily in major cities (or at least larger cities), but I felt this massive pull to take these cast of characters to a small town in Kansas. And that’s where they are, living their lives under the watchful scrutiny of my omniscient point of view.

Word count: 5,734 words.

Sam

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This Novel, This Month

pen-and-paperOne month to finish a novel; it’s a daunting task for anyone, at any time, but for me this month is like the perfect storm. Yet I’m going for it anyway, and we’ll see how far I get. (You know I don’t like to fail at anything, so I’m going to give it the ol’ college try and go for broke.) I got a new phone today, but instead of downloading a bunch of games and other apps, I’m instead downloading a word processing app and taking my spare time to write. That’s what it takes.

Okay, maybe Trivia Crack, but that’s it. I’m buckling down. This was day one of the NaNoWriMo challenge, and because I worked 8 hours today I was a little worried that I wasn’t going to get in the 1800 words I had assigned for myself, that checkpoint I plan on hitting every single day during the month. If I can just stay on pace and hit my mark I can stay ahead of the game and assure myself a successful campaign. It’s worked for me the past 3 Novembers.

So I got home really tired today, and it was nearly 4:30 in the afternoon, and Daylight Saving Time killed me anyway (it gets me coming and going), a million excuses swirling around. But I got out my laptop and I got to work, stopping only for a coffee refill, for a hurried dinner, and to check my daughter’s art (and I saw that it was good). Now it’s 2,022 words later, and I have the genesis for a solid plot that wasn’t there when I began. I call that good progress, but I know from personal experience that the toughest days are ahead.

And I’m looking forward to them. This novel. This month.

Sam

Hell or High Water

I will finish my novel this year. I will finish my novel this year. I will…

Yeah, I’m going to finish my novel this year, during the month of November, just as I’ve done every November since 2012. That’s three novels over 60,000 words each, in 30 days apiece. Yes, it’s as hectic as it sounds. And I don’t claim to be completely done with any of the 3 novels, but the rough drafts have been completed in those crazy, stressful, yet ultimately fulfilling 30 days.

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and I’m at it again in just four short days. How is it that that time flies by between Novembers? I was supposed to finish a separate novel and get it published by this point, but life takes over, and I’ll have to take a time out from that one to get this new one done. I did something similar back in 2013 when I took a hiatus from a current novel I was finishing to bang out one for NaNoWriMo. So I’m not worried.

What I am worried about is all the other stuff going on this year that I’ll have to navigate at the same time, many things I haven’t had to face in years past, the primary of which is the fact that I’m teaching this semester. That used to be my excuse for so many years when I didn’t do NaNo. “Oh, I would reaaaallllly love to do NaNo, but I’m teaching, and it’s just too much to take on in a month’s time!” But I’m not making excuses this year. I’m going to just do all of it instead. May god have mercy on my soul.

As of now I don’t have a plot, a theme, a list of characters — anything. All I have is the belief that on November 1st all of those things will come to me like magic. Then it’s off to the races. My goal this year is to write 1,800 words a day. In the past I’ve set goals like 2,000 words a day, but I’m trying to be more realistic this year. We’ll see how I make it, but the one thing I can’t do is get behind. I have to hit my totals every single day or it gets to be a mountain too big to climb. Last year it was a challenge hitting my goals every single day, but I did it.

And I’m going to do it again this year, come hell or high water (but I would prefer hell. High water just ruins my pants legs). Bring. It. On.

Sam

Dear Journal: Writing Again

Dear Journal,

I’m writing again! I know what you’re going to say. I write every day. And that’s true, but what I write every day are my thoughts, in this forum. These are my ideas in my journal, some well-formed and others just small nuggets I will hopefully polish later. These are daily affirmations of craft, I guess you could say, and they’re therapeutic to me, but just as therapeutic, and maybe even more so at times, is when I write my larger pieces, the ones I don’t share on here.

Yes, I’m writing another novel, and it kind of fell out of thin air into my fingers and subsequently began typing itself out on my laptop this morning. Now it’s 3,679 words later, and the fetus is gestating in the womb. The genesis is leading the way to revelations, and I am in love with my new heroine.

What I love most about writing again is discovering these new characters, getting inside of their skin and walking around in these lives I’ve created for them. I love sitting down, putting on my Ed Sheeran mix, or my Paula Abdul jams, or the Alice in Wonderland soundtrack, cranking it up, and letting the words flow one after another. And each time it happens differently, the creation of something new, so I’m never distracted by what’s gone on before.

There was a time in my youth when I felt like I was meant to be a short story writer, that the tales I had to tell were always going to be limited by page space, but that’s not the case anymore, not by far. Don’t get me wrong. I will always love the glory of short fiction, of taking a character from start to finish in a mere 20k words, of wrapping it up and putting a bow on it just in time for Christmas. But there’s something simply magical about taking my time and getting to know a character inside and out, what the novel’s length allows, something mystical and breathless.

So now I have Christina, and she has me through this journey in my old hometown, walking the same streets I used to walk, but she’s not me. That excites me in a way that few things do. Yes, I’m writing again, and it feels so good.

Sam

Dear Journal: Novel Aftermath

december-calendarDear Journal,

Now that National Novel Writing Month is over I’m feeling a bit of a letdown. It’s such a rush to write so much each day and to know that I’m headed somewhere special with it. So when it’s all said and done and the novel has been put to bed, at least the initial writing phase, there is an aftermath, a feeling of accomplishment mixed with a “what do I do next?”

I talked to some others who also completed the challenge and I found out that this feeling isn’t just mine and mine alone. They feel it too, that letdown, that exhale without another inhalation. We’re six days into December and I’m back to reading (I put all reading on hold during November while I’m writing), which always gives me a bunch of good ideas for writing, but which is also soothing in its own right. But there’s something missing.

So I’ve been going back to the manuscript, the over 50 thousand-word novel, and picking through it for idiosyncrasies, finally looking at it with a somewhat objective eye after being married to it for 30 days, then hemming and hawing over every single word choice. And I smile as I go through it because it holds together nearly as well as I wanted it to while I was composing it, something that doesn’t always happen. In fact, as I look deeper into it I think it’s ripe for a continuation, a sequel, at some point, and that makes me proud.

And I think maybe that’s what I’ll do, that for the first time I’ll write a second book as a companion piece, then edit them both simultaneously instead of going one at a time. Maybe that will take care of the inevitable letdown that comes after a successful November. Or maybe it will simply create more to do, more complex characters to try and understand. But that’s the fun part of novel writing — the hectic pace, the joyous prose, and the editing aftermath. Because there’s always another story to tell, and always another letdown to avoid.

Sam

50,000 Words

nanoWhen I tell them that I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month their first question is invariably, “does that mean you are writing an entire novel in 30 days?” I don’t really know how to answer either because the answer is both yes and no. It’s yes because a novel is technically 50,000 words, and one of the goals of NaNoWriMo is to hit that mark, which technically means I have a novel then. But it’s no as well because a novel needs a beginning, a middle, and an end, and I am hardly able to completely flesh out all three in the span of 50,000 words.

This year has truly been a labor of love because life interferes as it often does, so the goals I set for myself, while difficult at the outset, become even more fraught with a frantic dash to get each day in with a feeling of satisfaction. Does it wear me out? Indeed, but it’s a war of attrition, and I’m in it for the long haul, from the promising start on November 1st to the grueling completion on the last day of the month.

I just hit that imaginary yet still satisfactory line of 50,000 words today, a full five days before the 30th of the month, but I’m still not finished my novel so I’m soldiering on. I have a beginning and a middle, and I’m just starting to approach the final portion of that triumvirate with a solid horizon in sight. And I want to thank every single person who has listened to me this month moan about it because it is still an accomplishment, and I am so glad I kept pushing forward, and that I keep striving to accomplish my overarching goal.

To get that novel done. In 30 days. 5 days left, but yeah, that 50,000 barrier is still good to smash through.

Sam

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