I Nano. Do you Nano? Do you know what it is? In a nut
house shell, I commit to devoting the month of November to writing a novel (50,000 words being the Nano definition of a novel.)
My first attempt was in November of 2003. I had SUCH lofty dreams. I had the most amazing concept ever! Or so I thought. What I didn’t have was a framework—an outline. No, I was riding the high of my astounding concept, which of course had never been attempted by any writer before. Here’s my synopsis, which is still up at the official website.
The Girl Who Chased Herself
The life of Gwen, a single girl working a forgettable office job, somewhere in Seattle, somewhere in time. We meet Gwen at a point on her timeline, but soon enough, that line is snapped like a whip and we’re stepping back, back, back. Can a life lived in reverse still look forward to a bright future?
How far did I make it? 4,500 words. At that point, my entire concept collapsed in on itself. Who knew that writing a novel backwards WHILE trying to push a notion forwards at the same time was tricky?
I felt pretty sheepish about that first attempt and didn’t return to Nanowrimo for a decade. By 2013, I felt more comfortable with the challenge, since I had just finished the first draft of a novel which was over 57,000 words, and really, how hard could a sequel of a mere 50,000 words be? Wait, was that cockiness sneaking back into my attitude?
Happily, I won the challenge, churning out 51,146 words by November 30th. I then set the manuscript for Down The Tubes aside to age, like a fine wine, feeling rather optimistic about its future.
Fast forward to February 2015, when I rummaged around, found my story and knocked the dust off it. My first words were, “Oh, that’s why you set your manuscript aside and walk away for a while.” I still loved my concept, but it was clear that a lot of work still needed to be done. I had again chosen a complex plot, but this time I’d outlined my story ahead of time and graphed out the main characters and actions. While that outline had been helpful, I could see that I’d taken my sweet time ramping up to the action. The first two chapters of my story were huge rambles, full of excruciating detail about the history of a postal system that I hadn’t even introduced yet! What an awful way to start a book—a dry history lesson on a topic that readers might not even care about yet.
So, my first order of business was to scrap everything up to the point where my first main character entered the story and the action began. That hurt, especially since there were some good bits in there, as well as a description of a really fun event. However, a few days ago I had an epiphany. I realized that the really fun event that I had cut from the beginning of the book could be a really great way to end the book. By then, my readers would have bonded with the story and the characters. So this event would be a more meaningful and happy celebration, as well as a sneaky tribute to Ferris Bueller.
And when it’s all done and Down The Tubes is in your hands… I’ll dust off book three, The Hidden Doors, written for Nanowrimo 2014. I wonder if I can smooth it out before November 2015, since I have a really fun idea for the next book in The Brassbright Chronicles!