National Novel Writing Month does not inspire me the way it once did. I’ve participated in the race to 50,000 words many times over, each time writing a new story that sometimes became something more, and sometimes not. NaNoWriMo is really an exercise in forming writing habits, though, not so much about the novel or story itself. At least, that’s what it’s been for me.
I’ve long since proven to myself that I can write everyday. I may not write the 1700-ish words you need to average every day in order to finish NaNo, but I do write everyday. Some days, it’s 1000 words. Other days, it’s no more than 100. But the habit is with me, now, and it’s one I can’t shake. I suppose I can thank NaNo for that.
This November, I’m concentrating less on writing from scratch and more on rewriting. Rewrites for the following stories, to be exact:
- Highs, Lows, and In-Betweens: My sci-fi space western about a group of misfits searching the galaxy for freedom, adventure, and one lost love. This one has been in rewrite hell for almost three years, now, it’s time I got seriously cracking on it again.
- Finding Mister Wright: My coming-of-age not-exactly romance starring the original Mister Wright, Marshall, on his journey of self-discovery to be the better man.
- Number Seven and the Life Left Behind: My most recent political action story focused on a bodyguard torn between duty, friendship, love, and country.
I’m focusing my energies on making progress on all of these stories in one way or another. I’m already in pretty good shape! “Number Seven” is in the hands of my husband right now. His feedback should be the last step before I’m ready to upload that one to the printer. “Finding Mister Wright” has gone through a chunk rewrite, with the last chapter in its final stage of revision. “Highs, Lows, and In-Betweens” requires the most work, seeing as it’s a near 90% update edit, but I’ve had some plans percolating for a while now that I’m confident I can transcribe to paper.
I wish all of you out there pushing forward with your NaNo stories all my best. I know what a challenge it can be to make the time to write every day! But believe me, once you get yourself in the habit of writing, you’ll be a stronger writer for it. Here’s a blank version of the spreadsheet I’ve used in years past to track and calculate my NaNo progress: NaNo_calculations-blank. For those of you not joining the NaNo race, what are your writing plans for this month?
HLIB, Take 1
Back in 2014, I joined the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) excitement with a sequel of sorts to an earlier tale, From Hell (A Love Story). FH(ALS) was a raunchy space opera in which I tried to build a bigger backstory for Axton, the running-and-gunning bounty hunter from the 2012 video game Borderlands 2. Part of that backstory was the creation of an original character, Hal, an early (pre-game) partner of Axton’s. I wrote FH(ALS) between late 2012 and early 2014, but I had such fun building that world and the characters in it, I decided to return to that timeline with a host of new adventurers in November of 2014, for NaNoWriMo. The new story was called “The Highs, the Lows, and the In-Betweens”, and I pounded out that sucker free-form over those wild 30 days, plus an additional six months to bring it to a satisfying conclusion.
I posted my day-to-day progression of HLIB on a separate side blog. If nothing else, this process kept me accountable to my projected NaNoWriMo wordcount. Only one person read it…that I knew of. Several days ago, I received an email – more than three years after I’d finished the story – from another apparent HLIB reader:
HLIB, Take 2
Over the course of the next few years, I wrote a lot more stories following the timeline and characters of “The Highs, the Lows, and the In-Betweens”. When I looked at the original story, though, I found it suffered from the high-octane intensity of being a product of NaNoWriMo. The bones of the story I wanted to tell were there, but it needed work. A lot of work.
I sequestered the original story and put it in my archives, and started on a new and – hopefully – improved version. That version is Highs, Lows, and In-Betweens. It has become a significantly different story since I started the rewrite, with more characters, more conflicts, and more complications. It’s also become a lot more fun to be in that world, for those reasons.
HLIB principal characters – height comparison chart – doodle by Mayumi Hirtzel/bonusparts
Regarding that one interested reader’s original question – if I have plans to bring this story out again – the answer is, yes. Will it be the same story? No. Will it be better than it was before? Possibly. Have I enjoyed being in that universe again? Definitely.
I don’t know if readers will like the new HLIB, especially those who are familiar with the original version. I can only try to tell the most interesting story that I’m able to do. It will be a rollercoaster, though. I’ll be sharing more of this story – and my journey writing, or, rather, rewriting it – over the coming months. In the meantime…
Have you ever returned to a story for a rewrite, after a hiatus? Did that story change just a little, or a lot? Did you like the final product more, or less, than the original? Let me know in the comments below!
Well, I didn’t hit the 50K word count goal for NaNoWriMo 2016, but I wasn’t planning on doing that. (I’m trying to remind myself that I didn’t really “fail” this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge, because my goals were different from the word count ones. It’s kind of working.) Instead, I focused my energies on the rewrite of Highs, Lows, and In-Betweens, the sequel to my space opera/western romance novel, From Hell (A Love Story). I still got a little over 40K done, though, so that’s pretty good!
One of the unique joys-slash-conflicts I always experience during an edit or rewrite is the comparison between what happened in the first draft, when the words are just gushing out, to the more thoughtful edit, where I try to pick apart, rework, and sometimes even build anew the character motivations, relationships, conflicts, and plot events. During my NaNo rebellion over the past thirty days, I took the bones of my five protagonists (I know; that’s a lot of protags, but that’s a discussion for another day) and really rebuilt them. They’ve become a lot more complicated, and a lot more engaging because of that. At least, I think they are.
The first draft of the story, which I wrote in 2014, was a lot of fun, and many of the main story points are still there. But now, after tearing parts of it up and delving deep into who these people truly are at their cores, there is a new villain, a new love story, a new betrayal, and a whole new possibility for this adventure to go far beyond the simple introductory tale it was at the beginning.
I will keep working on this rewrite, because these characters are too interesting to let fall to the wayside. I’m sure I’ll also be writing new stories, too, because I just can’t keep myself from examining what the other characters in my other worlds have been doing. In short, I’ll just keep writing, NaNo or no NaNo.
Did you participate in NaNoWriMo this year? How did you do? What projects are you working on that you’re excited about?
Yeah, I’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo again this year. But, this year, I’m participating as a NaNo Rebel.
I got the idea – and the bug – from writer and editor Kate Johnston, aka 4amwriter (website and twitter), who talks more in-depth about the concept of how to be a NaNo rebel here. As for me, I’m using the opportunity and join-in rush of NaNo to push myself forward on a long-overdue rewrite of 2014’s NaNo, Highs, Lows, and In-Betweens, a space opera that follows about two years after the events in my Borderlands book, From Hell (A Love Story):
Like Kate, I’m using this NaNoWriMo to concentrate on aspects of the book other than the wordcount. I’ve completed NaNo at least six times over the last ten years, so that 50,000-words-in-30-days goal is not a significant challenge for me. What is a challenge is making sure that every chapter in this rewrite has a conflict, every character gets their due, and the end of every chapter has a hook to keep the reader pressing on. No nothing-happens-here moments that go on for pages; no dangling or missing motivations; no falling interest to make the reader put the story down. In many ways, this is a much tougher challenge, and I almost wish I’d gone the easy wordcount route. But this story – like all my stories – is dear to me, and I want to see it finished: bigger, better, more badass than ever before.
If you are participating in NaNoWriMo 2016, whether as a traditional drafter, pantser, plantser, or rebel, let’s connect! My username is bonusparts over there, and I’m always open to more buddies.
What are your writing plans for November? NaNo? Rebellion? Let me know!
In addition to being the start of National Novel Writing Month, November 1 has additional significance for American writers: it’s National Author’s Day! Here is some of the history, as supplied by NationalDayCalendar.com:
The idea of setting aside a day to celebrate American authors came from Nellie Verne Burt McPherson, president of the Bement (Illinois) Women’s Club in 1928. McPherson was a teacher and an avid reader throughout her life. During World War I, when she was recuperating in a hospital, she wrote a fan letter to fiction writer Irving Bacheller, telling him how much she had enjoyed his story, “Eben Holden’s Last Day A’Fishin.” Bacheller sent her an autographed copy of another story, and McPherson realized that she could never adequately thank him for his gift. Instead, she showed her appreciation by submitting an idea for a National Author’s Day to the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, which passed a resolution setting aside November 1 as a day to honor American writers. In 1949 the day was recognized by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
If you follow the link, you can also read about how you can observe this holiday and support your favorite authors!
I may not be a “real” author – as my in-laws remind me so often, since I’ve only self-published one novel, and it was a fan fiction novel, at that – but I like to think that this day can at least sort of be for me, as well, since writing is such an integral part of my life. I’m also lucky to know personally so many talented published authors and aspiring-to-be-published authors, and I wanted to give a little shout-out to them. If you’ve got a moment, check out their blogs to read about their journeys, and, while you’re there, give them a comment or even click on one of their books to purchase!
Kate Johnston @ 4amwriter.com : writer, coach, editor with several handbooks to guide you in your writing journey
Kourtney Heintz @ kourtneyheintz.com : author of The Six Train to Wisconsin, The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts, and the brand new Highway Thirteen to Manhattan!
Vanessa Chapman @ vanessa-chapman.com : writer with multiple skilful blogs and several articles (at lifehack!) to read
JM McDowell @ jmmcdowell.com : writer (and archaeologist!) of the delightful Meghan Bode series of mysteries, which you can read on her blog
George McNeese @ Project Blacklight : writer with several articles, reviews, and even short stories to share
ShadeTheRaven @ Shade The Raven : writer with lots of short stories to fill your days
Make sure to send a little bit of love to YOUR favorite author, today!