NaNoWriMo

nanowrimo1So, today is September 22nd. Still weeks away from November but already I’m thinking about the National Novel Writing Month, or as insiders call it: NaNoWriMo.

I signed up last year, thinking it would be good motivation to get me moving beyond the novel I had just finished, to get me writing again. I started with the notion of a girl on a boat and a magic fish, something of a retelling of the fairy tale about the talking fish that grants wishes.

I hated it. I hated everything to do with the idea. So I didn’t write. I gave up on NaNoWriMo because I felt there was no story in me at the time. My novel had it’s claws buried deep in my skin and wouldn’t let go. It was all I could think about. I’ve since completed my work on that novel, at least until the magic day someone offers to publish it. (That day coming someday after I write my query letter…so possibly never at the rate I’m moving.)

Now, I’ve decided to let go of the novel and move on….. to the sequel. Smart idea? Who knows… if the first never sells, I’ll have a sequel to a book that never sold and it’ll probably never sell either. However, if someone does like it, perhaps they’ll also like the fact that I’ve got a follow-up book.

My plans were to race through the plotting, prepare my materials all throughout October, and then be ready to write, write, write come November. As I set out to design my plot, however, I found I had absolutely no idea where to go.

Writing a novel is tough but writing a sequel is even harder. Why? Because it’s intimidating. You’ve already written this entire book and if you’re half-way satisfied with it (because I don’t think any writers are ever completely happy with what they’ve written) then you can only think, “The sequel has to be just as good, if not better, than the first.” And that’s a terrible thought. You have to outdo yourself somehow.

In my case, I’m just a wannabe. I’m an amateur. The fact that I managed to complete my first book and that I  have had test-readers that said good things about it is way beyond anything I could have hoped for. And so, I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. How did I write a book? How did I slog through the slow parts? How did I fill that plot hole? How on earth did I write myself out of that corner that I had written myself into!? And for Pete’s Sake!! How did I put down enough words to fill 400 pages!? It’s like I blinked and it was done.

I didn’t remind myself of the struggle, the discipline, the frustration, the anger, the depression, etc., etc. Instead, I just saw this finished book and convinced myself I could never do it again, that it had been so easy and this time, well, things must be different. It must have been a story that was just dying to be told, whereas the sequel is just a story that’s unwilling to be told.

It seems like I’ve struggled with discovering a new plot for weeks. At some point didn’t I have this book already planned? Didn’t I feel like even though I didn’t know the details, I still knew somehow what would happen? Of course not. Total BS. I know the characters, I know the world, and I know what threatens that world. However, the events that were going to lead me to my conclusions were far beyond me.

But I kept thinking, I forced others to think with me, and to listen to me rant and rave. I struggled and whined and complained. And suddenly, somewhere in the middle of all that self-pitying misery, I realized there were little bits of a plot beginning to shine through all that darkness.

I took what little bit popped up and I went to write them down in outline form, so I wouldn’t lose them, so I’d have some starting point from which to launch the rest of it. I wrote down one bullet point, then another, expecting no more than five – but as soon as I wrote the fifth one, the last bullet I had decided upon – the last bullet I knew would happen, another suddenly popped up. And then another. And then one more.

In the end, I had 30 bullet points. I had a 2 page outline of over 1000 words. I don’t know where this stuff came from. I started the ball rolling and it just took off, leaving me to chase wildly after it. When I caught up, I had this image in my head – this raw video of a half-baked story playing in my mind. But I could finally see that something had taken shape. I had the bare bones of a plot.

So what stupid thing do I do next? I get on my blog and make the announcement that I’m going to try my hand at NaNoWriMo in November. I’m going to attempt to bang out as much of a first draft for this sequel as I can in those 30 days. I wrote my last novel in 16 weeks. I spent a few months revising, and now it’s ready.

My goal – to take that 16 weeks and break it down, to beat it into 4 weeks. If I can’t do that, at least I’ll have a large portion of writing to work with. I’ll be able to devote all my time and attention on a new story.

So for those of you who are interested in following my little journey. I’ve put up a NaNoWriMo word count widget in my sidebar beneath the Categories Section. The goal is to finish with at least 50,000 words. That’s 50 THOUSAND. I’ll have to write on average about 6  pages a day to meet that goal. Seems simple… until I think about all the blocks I encountered with my first novel.

So, with October still ahead of me, I’m making a November commitment that I’m not sure I’ll be able to honor. With October still ahead of me, I’ve got just enough time to finish my outline, polish it off, and begin to visualize where this story is going to take me on November 1st.

It’s terrifying and exciting all at once.

So here’s to the next month of planning and my last month of sanity. CHEERS!

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