I have read this article by Cat Valente, How to Write a Novel in 30 Days, so many times I nearly have it memorized. Good thing, too, because this is what I’m about to try to do.
Do, I mean. What I’m about to do. Small green swampy guy admonishes me in my head.
I have my outline. I have notes galore. I even have some maps. And I have yet another adventure scheduled for early July, and I really want to have this novel written by then. So it’s time to go into Delusional Genius Mode and do it.
This is an absolutely crazy thing to try to do. I’ve done NaNoWriMo many times–in fact, Found Objects was my 2005 NaNovel. But this is different, for the reason that Cat mentions in that article. When I’m doing NaNoWriMo the idea is just to get the words down, no matter how crappy they are. That was a great exercise for a very long time, but it will not serve this time around. This time I have to write something I can believe in. It’s still going to be essentially a first draft, and it will need tons of revision, but it has to a first draft I don’t hate. You can try to talk me out of that, but really, just trust me on this one. I have to bring my A game this time.
The good news is that I think I’m ready to do that. Wish me luck.
So this is a fraction of the disaster I’m trying to sort through. Notes dating back to 2005, notecarded scenes with the focus on the wrong POV character, things happening in a city I’ve never been to. Even just reading through the manuscript is a challenge because there are multiple versions of it. I’ve spent the past few days sifting through it all and working on an outline, and what I’ve found is that I’m basically starting the whole thing over.
The biggest change since I first wrote it is the small matter of whose story it is, which changed what kind of book it is (for the better). I’ve beefed up the bad guys, named all of my worlds, added twists and turns and other cool shit. I’m surprised at how well this is going. I mean, seven years of thinking about this thing off and on, and it’s only now starting to come together, but it’s doing it in a big way. I’m genuinely excited about this story. It seems that most of the existing 55,000 words are going to have to be tossed out, but that’s okay. We’ll call that a practice run. I’m a better writer now than I was in 2005 anyway.
The novel is consuming a whole lot of brain space right now, but of course life remains in session: Saturday was my oldest daughter’s prom, my youngest has her 4th grade California Mission project* due this week, the car remains in the shop until Tuesday, the home loan is still pending…the list of fairly major life events pending goes on. Plus John and I have a workshop coming up very quickly (he’s teaching, I’m attending). I’m not sure which is the chicken and which is the egg, but I seem to have a lot more energy for everything else when I’m enthusiastic about a writing project and making progress on it. So for now it all seems manageable.
*For those who grew up in or are raising children in the California public school system, this is a familiar assignment.
I have always thought that one man of tolerable abilities may work great changes, and accomplish great affairs among mankind, if he first forms a good plan, and, cutting off all amusements or other employments that would divert his attention, makes the execution of that same plan his sole study and business.
– Benjamin Franklin
I don’t know about great changes, but I’ve really got to get this book finished. I got a little push from an unexpected source the other night, and it’s pretty clear that I need to spend the next month and a half making sense of Found Objects, the novel I workshopped at Taos last year. (My earliest notes on it are dated June 2005.) I had been avoiding it for a while because until last week I wasn’t sure what kind of book it wanted to be, but I think I know now.
I asked Twitter for help yesterday, and with your help I have A Plan. I have historically been very good at Making Plans and very bad at sticking to them. If you catch me doing anything other than working on this particular thing between now and July, feel free to flog me.