Last Monday I kicked off NaNoWriMo with a big day and I’ve been riding the wave of a couple of thousand banked words since then. With an extra hour on my clock today, I hope to move a little further ahead.
I’ve been learning some things about my main character and her friends in the past week. It’s the first draft of the second novel in a series I have planned. I just finished the first draft of the first book at the end of October, so I’m not dreaming up new characters — well, some are new; victims and suspects, mostly — or a new environment for them to live in.
Restraining myself from going back to make changes in the first novel has been one of my biggest battles. I did allow myself to make minor changes — the name of one character is different now, so I let myself do a global replace a couple of days ago. But otherwise, I’ve been making notes.
So far, I haven’t had to bring in the ninjas — a suggestions from some of my long-time NaNo friends about what to do when you get stuck. I know I have to raise the stakes for the main characters as the book goes along, but I don’t think ninjas really fit into my plot.
I’ve also got a rough idea of where I’m going. As I turn more and more into a “plantser,” I find a tendency to figure out what I need and make a Scrivener notecard for it, then go back to what I was doing. I still start out knowing very little. I like to keep things surprising — even to me.
Instead, I’ve been focusing on deepening my understanding of my characters’ back stories. I have a feeling I’ll be doing a bit of that today. I tend to put that in files that aren’t part of the novel, so I don’t usually include that in my word count. It’s legit, but they won’t be part of the final draft anyway, so why put them there now? We’ll see where I am come Nov. 30.
I hope you’re having a good NaNo! And remember, use all the words.
Since the shutdown started last year, one of the best things in my life has been online chatting.
I’ve been a fan of the magic of the internet since I went back to school in the early 1980s. I was working for a publisher who was an early adopter of computers and those schreechy dial-up modems. I was able to take one of our “trash 80s” — a Texas Instruments keyboard with a minuscule memory — to campus with me. Between classes, I’d find a table in the student center near enough to an outlet that I could plug it into, and work through stacks of articles that I needed to edit.
I much prefer the tablet I’m writing on now to that “trash 80,” but the principle of portable computing power has always appealed to me.
And now that I can connect to online chats, it’s even better.
Since last March, I have “zoomed” to conferences and conversations with people all over the world. The first one was with folks in Italy, one of the earliest and worst-hit by the coronavirus. Just last night, I had a chat with siblings from my Sisters in Crime Chicagoland chapter.
Chicagoland stretches at least half-way across the stateline with Wisconsin (that would be me), and at least as far south as Champaign (hi, Robert). And neither of us would have made it to our 6:30 p.m. chapter meeting if it had been one of the pre-COVID-19, in person meetings at a book store, or library, or coffee shop in the city. Even one of the women who lives in Chicago might not have made it because of mobility problems.
I understand that some people crave face-to-face meetings. But I can only hope that the wonderful flexibility of online gatherings doesn’t go away just because in-person is becoming possible again.
One of my first editors a had a few catch phrases that were part of his everyday conversation. One he offered frequently was, “Done is good.” It was his reminder to meet deadlines. Jane Morrissey has put together a wonderful little post on finishing the first draft of your book (or poem or play).
Warren Adler, author of The War of the Roses and other books, continues writing in his 80s. He credits his ability to a daily memory exercise. As I read his essay, it reminded me of Lois Lowry’s The Giver. I suspect it is never too early to make a ritual of remembering.
If there are only a few basic plots to work from, retelling old stories would seem inevitable. Here’s an interesting discussion about the pros and cons of borrowing not just plots, but whole stories, cast and all.