Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

Back on the Horse

I’ve finally wrapped up a tough work contract that absorbed all my time for the past ten weeks, with no more than a single day off in the past six. I knew going into the job that I would lose writing time, but I decided that the opportunity was worth the sacrifice given that the job was not expected to carry on for more than four or five weeks. Well, surprise—the work extended to more than double the expected duration.

Interesting thing about this particular film job: the period setting was identical to my novel-in-progress (England and the Colonies in the mid 18th century). The only difference was that the scripted colonial location took place in Virginia, whereas my novel unfolds in New York and Philadelphia. As an art director, I spent many hours neck-deep in research since part of my job is to match the look of the period. But while I took advantage of swimming in my own novel’s setting, I did not have the time to delve into my story.

How does one get back into a big story after such a long and intense break from the material? I always find the best way to get back into a project is to re-read the manuscript. The characters come to life and the story fills the mind again in a way that feels like getting into a freshly made bed. I’ve started tackling the 83,000 words I’ve put on the page to date. I’m enjoying the read, which is a good sign—and also see clearly where I need to do some re-structuring. Reading with fresh eyes is one unexpected advantage of having to take a break from a manuscript.

The timing of the end of my work contract lined up perfectly for taking part in NaNoWriMo again this year. I would have signed up if I were ready to start a new novel. However, I’m still working on an unfinished gap in the middle of the novel from last year. Instead, I’m doing “unofficial” NaNoWriMo. I’m writing every day, working to a word-count goal, and aiming to finish the middle of the book by the end of the month.

I’m finding it a challenge and suffering from immense blank page syndrome, but I’m glad to get back on the horse.

I’d be interested to hear how others deal with major interruptions in their work flow. Please feel free to share in the comments below.

 

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Filed under Getting Published, Writing

NaNoWriMo Recap (Long Overdue!)

I started a short blog post a week after NaNoWriMo ended, ruminating on a post-partum writing-blitz funk I found myself in. I never finished the post, as the funk rolled into the holidays, followed by a scramble to prepare for a three-month contract away from home, and attempts to squeeze in some promotion for the published novel. I am shocked to return to the post only to discover I wrote the thing two months ago! So without further blah-blah-blah-ing, here are some reflections on my Nano experience.

I took November off to write—something I have never done before officially (unofficially I have refrained from actively seeking new contracts in the interests of spending time with words … but often to my detriment as the gnawing worry of lack of income undermines the ability to sit down and concentrate on a novel). This time I had the luxury of knowing I had work lined up at the end of the month. I treated the November novel month as a contract with myself, determined to write a minimum of four hours a day and aiming at six or eight.

I decided to write a story inspired by a visit to Annapolis several years ago when on visiting one of the historical houses I learned about indentured servants. I wondered what it might take to persuade someone to voluntarily put themselves in complete servitude in exchange for travel to the Americas. Could love be a motivator?

The week before writing officially began, I dedicated my time to putting together character studies and period research. I’ve set the novel in 1740, beginning in London, jumping to New York and Philadelphia, then back to London, over the course of five years. I did not intend to write another novel about crossing the Atlantic, but that seems to have happened. I would have liked to have had more time for research but I ended up working on my last contract right up to late October.

Nano encourages word count, with a winning participant culminating a total 50000 words over the 30 days of November. I managed an average 2500 per day, with my best day writing just shy of 6000 words. I tied the structure of the novel to the calendar days, knowing when I wanted to hit certain plot points. The most difficult points to achieve happened in the middle of the month, and with a week to go I jumped ahead to the third part of the novel. I wrote the final sentence on the last day of November, some time late afternoon or early evening, to great satisfaction. I finished with 74000 words down on (virtual) paper, and a giant hole in the middle of the story. The last sentence? [spoiler alert!]:

“Each of them basked in the promise of a future that neither of them had ever dreamed possible.”

I guess as much abuse as I put my characters through (I’ve learned I like to abuse my heroes), things turn out all right in the end.

My goal now is to fill that giant middle-of-the-story hole and edit the rest of the 74000 word manuscript. I intend to publish each of the three parts electronically through this year, and release a full print version at the end. I’ve been rereading the novel this week as a first step, and am happy to find myself fully engrossed.

Stay tuned next week for what I’m doing to create my “author platform.”

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