It's that time of year again, when aspiring novelists around the world write a novel in a month. I skipped last year because I was continuing to work on a novel I started in the 2011 event. I haven't finished it yet (I'm editing the first 70,000 words before moving on to the second half), but I wanted to take advantage of NaNoWriMo to start another novel. I'm too slow a writer to finish one before I start another.
Last month, I attended the Google Summer of Code mentor meetup and picked up a nice notebook as one of the giveaways. I've always done my writing on a computer, but this time I figured I'd try to write my novel longhand.
Part of this is because at work, we recently released a digital edition of the original notebooks in which Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. As a writer, I find the draft process interesting. None of the deleted text is hidden. It's all there to be seen even when crossed out. While we don't have enough information to be certain about the exact order of the edits, having gone through the process of writing a novel (or two) helps give some insight into how the process works. By writing this month's novel in a paper notebook, I can gain some insight into how Mary might have experienced her writing process.
I'm slow writing novels. I've drafted the first half (70,000 words) of a new one with the working title Silent Rain (you can see how slow I've been if you've noticed the yellow progress bar in the sidebar that hasn't moved in almost a year). Now I'm going back and editing it down to refresh my memory of the story in preparation for starting a push through the second half in November for NaNoWriMo. I don't expect to have the editing finished over the next month and a half, but I do plan on releasing the first half as a standalone work in early spring while I wrap up the second half.
Meanwhile, I thought I'd share the beginning of the novel with you so you can see where it's going, or at least how it starts. This is after a first edit to get rid of much of the slow sections and tighten the dialogue. Other rounds will deal with other aspects of the text.
I'm almost half way to my goal of 150,000 words for my next novel. Given how it's paced so far, I might need to aim for 200,000. However long the first draft ends up being, I intend to cut 20%. Hopefully, I'll cut the worst 20%, leaving a fairly decent 80%.
I'm a process kind of guy. If I know that I'll get to something later because of the process I'm going through, then I won't worry about it now. I'm this way when I program, and I'm this way when I write. Processes can make it easier to get around the tendency to overlook things that we're already familiar with.
I'm planning on a twelve step process for editing based on the chapters in Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. The book is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to try their hand at editing their manuscript. You still might want to pass your work by someone else, but going through Self-Editing will make subsequent edits less painful.
I'm a quarter of the way through the first draft! I'm on schedule to finish the first draft by mid-June. Then, I'll spend the rest of June and all of July editing. If that goes well, I'll be formatting in August and publishing in September. I'll be writing about the editing process as I go through it. For now, I do most of my writing on the weekends. Evenings can net me about 500 words. I had hoped to get a lot more written during our spring break, but the days we had off weren't good for me. I did get other things done, and I've gotten back to some fast action, which is always easier to write.
If I divide the novel up into thirds, then we're almost at a third. Only 12,500 words to go. That's enough for about three more broad scenes or bits-of-things-happening. The reason this is important is because the first third of the novel needs to set up the overall problem, the second third needs to find the solution, and the last third needs to carry it out. There are always complications along the way, but that's the big picture for me.
The working title for my new novel is Silent Rain. When the novel opens, it's already been raining non-stop for a week or two. The reservoir up river from Sherman's family is overflowing and the dam is showing signs that it might go at any time. Pretty soon, it does collapse and all the water races downstream to wipe out the town below it. This sets off a series of events that finds Sherman searching for his family after he sees them get taken by an armed gang.
At this point, I have almost 31,000 words. Sherman hasn't found his family yet, but he has an idea of where they might be. He's run into a monster, scavenged for food, and escaped from someone. I think he'll eventually meet up with the rest of his family, but it may be a little while. Or it might not. He's about to open a door and explore a place where he might find them, eventually.
Before I get into the meat of this post, I'd like to point out that I have removed my novel, Of Fish and Swimming Swords, from B&N and Smashwords (and all of the markets fed by Smashwords) so that I can participate in Amazon's KDP Select program for the next three months. I didn't have any significant sales through those channels, so I'm not losing much by doing this. I'll make it available for free on the Kindle every once in a while, including all day tomorrow, Monday, 5 March (Pacific time). Take a chance on it when it's free and, if you feel like it, write a review or tell a friend. You don't have to own a Kindle to buy a book for Kindle, especially if the book is free!
Every November, I mean to buckle down and write 50,000 words. Every November, something comes up that keeps me from doing it. Last year, I taught an introductory course to creative writing at Texas A&M University. The year before, I probably got too busy with work. This year, I'm going to make it happen! I don't have any trips planned except for Thanksgiving. I don't have any activities after work or on the weekend that take up a large amount of time. Nothing is standing in my way.
For those who haven't heard of NaNoWriMo, hop over to the website and take a look. I'm raising money to help the nonprofit that runs it build communities in classrooms, coffee shops, libraries, and living rooms all over the world and help the inspiration flow for me and thousands of my fellow novelists. More importantly, your contribution will help The Office of Letters and Light build a more engaged and inspiring world.
For the rest of this post, I want to explore why NaNoWriMo works and touch a bit on what it could mean for digital humanities. Today is my research day, after all, so I need to tie this in with my work somehow.
I've given the novel I'm writing for my thesis the working title, Of Fish and Swimming Swords. I don't have names for the second or third novel yet, but ideas are beginning to come together. They'll complete the arc begun in the thesis.The last two nights, I've woken with farely vivid dreams. Dreams aren't useful in their raw state. If you actually transcribe a dream, it won't make much sense because dream logic isn't sufficiently realistic. But dreams can provide interesting settings and plot pointers. That's what these two dreams have done.