I have never understood why National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, for short, is in November. I don’t know about everyone else, but November almost always ends up being one of the busiest months of the year. My best friend, Joy’s, birthday is that month. My little sister, Megan’s, birthday is at the beginning of December, and we usually end up either prepping or actually doing something for her birthday at the end of November. There is Thanksgiving and the lead up preparations for that. There is Christmas shopping and preparations for my birthday. Basically, a lot of preparing for things and doing things. This year, in particular, was bad.
Which is, of course, why I committed myself to write 50,000 words in a month. Because WHAT BETTER MONTH, REALLY?
This month, I chose to work on Legally Insane, a romantic comedy idea I have been spinning around for a long time now. About 18 months ago, I wrote it. It was 150,000 words long. The romance genre generally tops out between 80-90,000 word, so it was pretty much too long for ANY kind of book. Almost too long for epic fantasy. So, I spent nearly a year culling and trimming. Then I spent six months thinking. What could go? What should go? What wasn’t really necessary for the theme? What was only in there because my heart couldn’t bear to let it go?
I talked to Ismael, hubby and beta reader extraordinaire. His main critique was that, while he would follow the characters anywhere, the will-they/won’t-they got a little too thick at times, and at points, it could be unbelievable that the leads hadn’t just decided they would. It made the whole thing feel bloated. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is why you need another set of eyes to see your work. I dove into the original, dug in deeply, and came out with a new outline.
My new outline had several changes. Gone were dead weight characters that dragged down the plot. I deleted the D and E storyline I didn’t even realize I’d been trying to tell. I cut six months off of the story timeline, which meant things had to happen faster and with greater weight and that I didn’t need much “and then time passed” filler. I combined scenes, moved scenes around. I even shifted the theme slightly.
I had a brand new story to tell. So, NaNoWriMo it was.
I’ve done this before and wrote about it. The first time out, writing was the struggle. How could I possibly crank out 1,670 words every day? It seemed like so much.
This time, despite a few “crap, with that character gone this scene makes ZERO sense” moments, writing the book was easy. Having time to write the book was another thing entirely. When I had a cup beneath, I could open the tap and let it flow. But cups were few and far between. At least within the confines of my normal sleep pattern.
So, I wrote late into the night and then woke up at 5:30 AM to do it all over again. I. Am. TIRED. Sooooooo tired.
But here I am. On November 1st, I knew what my first three chapters would contain. That was it. I was terrified when I started to write because I had only partially thought through my outline (I built the infrastructure on those good days where I found a lot of time.) I loved my characters and I knew them. That was all I had right away. On December 1st, I am writing Chapter 14 of a ridiculous romantic comedy that has actually made me giggle a few times in public. That’s 50,000 original words (not counting bits of dialog I pulled from the original). I still have a third of the story to go, but I’m at the part of every book which I have termed “Shit Meets Fan” (poetic, I know). This is the part where things pick up to a frenetic pace and all of the plot strings tie together in a knot as we build to the climax. And, for me, this is the part where things start to feel like building a Lego set, like the directions are there for me and all I need to do is construct. The best is yet to come.
So, that’s what I have been doing for the last month. What have you been up to? Post in the comments below.
And if you’d like to read about the beautiful uncertainty that comes with your first NaNo, check out my good friend Louis Santiago at his blog, The House of Error. He kept an online journal of all thirty days that captured the frantic pace of the challenge in posts that are both clever and poignant.
See you on the 15th, when I recap the books I whirred through in 2014.