All of last year, I planned for November: NaNoWriMo. I was ready to go on Halloween, itching to start the writing process. Then, I got sick. Then, I broke my finger. Then, nothing got accomplished.
This was followed by Christmastime, which was busy even with a pandemic, and also, I had a brace on my pinky until New Year’s. So, it is only now that I am sitting down to rekindle my love affair with words.
The great thing about NaNoWriMo is that you can go on the website each time you write and update your word count. It keeps me on track very nicely…accountably is key during a first draft, in my opinion. I could still use the site for this, but I choose not to, because I write in MS Word and there’s a little tally right in the bottom left corner of how I’m doing. And the truth of the matter is that this book is NOT the little guy I wrote in 2019. I am over 11k right now, and I have only just started chapter 4 of what appears to be 20, so we’re looking at an easy 60k on the rough draft. I only easily wrote about 48k on the last book, and then pulled a couple thousand more out of the air in the second go-over. Your average literary fiction book is around 70k. I think that’s where this will fall.
Since it has no title, I refer to it either as my WIP (work in progress,) or The Ten. See, it started out in my brain in 2002 with ten characters who would band together and topple a dictatorship by staging a coup. In 2016, I started to see striking comparisons to my book and reality of the United States, so I abandoned it because I wanted to be neither plagiarizer nor prophet. Of course, last week, I was watching the news and a dark laughter bubbled out of me as I thought “Didn’t I write this before?”
Anyway, I trashed the plot, but I kept the characters. I knew them so well, as well as I know myself, and when you’re a writer and you’ve got something so well-developed, you’ve got to save it for something good.
About a year ago, I decided The Ten would be my next big project. There’s a lot of thinking involved in writing, so I spent several months contemplating new plots and situations I could put the characters I had into. Eventually, I came up with a scaled down version of the original plot, something made-up and workable and not happening in real time on CNN. Then, I started the prep work: outlines, character bios, act breakdowns, chapter breakdowns, scene breakdowns, etc. And research research research: many thanks and good wishes to the Twitter folks who have helped me out with descriptions of the Bahamas or explaining to me how long it would take to row to an island 30 miles away, and why you wouldn’t be able to see that island because of the curvature of the Earth (things I learned yesterday.) Also, I know more about guns now than I ever intended. It was a year of research and thinking and planning.
Now is the year of writing.
I was afraid that there would be big gaps in my writing, that I wouldn’t be able to sit down every day and do it the way I did during NaNo ‘19. Turns out, once I started, I couldn’t stop. I want to know what happens as much as a reader, and I’m only going to find out if I write it…if that makes sense. Because all the planning in the world doesn’t prepare you for the magic.
The magic is when you are writing and you are no longer in the room with yourself, as Stephen would say. It’s when you can’t believe that you wrote the words you’re reading back. It’s the little character details that you didn’t know you knew, or the tiny ways you describe the sunlight. It’s the part of the writing that surprises the writer, and it’s the best part…seriously. It’s like a drug-powerful and addictive and makes you feel like you can do anything.
So, I will finish this blog and I will go read some submissions, and rest my finger, so I can drop another thousand words into the WIP later. I don’t have the accountability mechanism that I had before, but I will of course use my blog as a vehicle to hold myself up to my standards, as I have done in the past.
And perhaps, even to catch the magic.