Since I started this blog, several people have asked when my novel will be finished and how I managed to write it. I don’t have a simple answer to either question but since people are curious, I’ll respond as well as I can over the next several posts.
So, when will it be finished? F*** if I know. I didn’t mean to say that out loud, but it’s the truth. I started writing it in November of 2008, as a National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) project. The idea of Nano is to churn out 50,000 words of narrative between November 1 and November 30 and use the time pressure to overcome one’s internal editor. Another idea innate to Nano is that fiction written this quickly is not likely to be of publishable quality.
So, if you complete Nano, the result is that on or before November 30 you will have a big pile of words; a pile that may or may not contain plot and character development. In my case, by November 30, 2008 I had 50,000 words that contained a plot arc and a whole lot of stream of consciousness, but I didn’t have anything that would be recognizable as a novel.
This was my fifth Nano, and while I had hit the 50k mark 4 out of 5 times, this was the first that yielded even a complete story arc. Since I had an arc I was hopeful I would be able to turn the attempt into a usable novel. The next big task would be to wrangle the stream of consciousness into a coherent narrative with dialog, fully developed characters, conflict, and a conclusion.
Some people write effectively in short spurts and can fit their writing in among their other daily activities, but I am not one of those people. During Nano month I would skimp on vacuuming, sleeping, and socializing in order to give myself big chunks of writing time, but this isn’t sustainable year round, if for no other reason than dust bunnies. So the next thing I did was reserve a week in the spring of 2009 to hide away and work (in Kauai, but don’t be envious – it was hell).
About 2 weeks before I was to leave I dreamt that I forgot my laptop. In the dream I spent days of my writing week trying to get my hands on a laptop and got very little writing done. I assumed it was an anxiety dream and thought no more of it. Then, less than 48 hours before I was to leave, I managed to fill my laptop with water. Hint: don’t ever stuff a laptop and a full camelback into the same small container and then squeeze it closed. Ahem.
I am an obsessive backer-upper so I didn’t lose any material and a coworker was able to lend me a spare for the week, so, crisis averted, but it did make me wonder about that dream, and whether I had a subconscious desire to fail (or maybe just a subconscious desire to enjoy Kuaui).
Anyway, I boarded the plane believing that I would emerge with a publication-ready manuscript. I laugh now to realize how hopeful and clueless I was. I DID emerge from that trip with a large chunk of work out of the way, but I didn’t have a novel yet. I was missing some key pieces of character development and I was doing a lot of telling and not enough showing (more on that later). I had figured out some things about how to make a plot move forward and how to make characters compelling, but at the end of the week I could see that I had a lot more work to do.
As it turned out, it took numerous sequestered weekends and another hellish Kauai hideaway trip before I had what I thought was a complete, possibly saleable manuscript. Next up, what happened when I showed it to my first readers.