Tuesday, November 04, 2008

NaNoWriMo: The Project

I'm still keeping up the pace for NaNo, hitting just a bit above my target yesterday, which means I'm ahead of schedule. I may have to do a little tinkering with what I did yesterday before I can move forward. Yeah, I know, you're not supposed to revise as you go with this, but it's better to adjust a few hundred words than to move the plot in an entirely wrong direction and have to rewrite the entire book later.

I mentioned that my NaNoWriMo project is one that's lived in my head for more than twenty years. I think it still fits within the rules because it isn't a work in progress. The actual writing is all new.

It started as a dream I had the summer after I graduated from high school. It was such a vivid dream that I can still remember it, and I thought it would make a great story. I wrote down what I remembered and played with it some to create more of a solid story concept and characters. I don't know if I wrote any actual text at that point. My senior year in college, I took a parageography course (the geography of imaginary worlds), and our big project for the course was to create a world of our own and find a way to describe it. I used this world for my project, and doing the thinking the project required really fleshed out the setting and situation. I still don't know if I actually wrote anything at this point.

Then a year after I graduated from college, I took what at the time was a huge splurge and registered for a writing conference. As part of the conference fee, you could enter two categories of the conference manuscript contest. Each entry required the first chapter and a synopsis. At the time, I was trying to be a romance novelist, so my main focus was on getting together a romance novel entry. I still had time before the deadline, and I wanted to get my money's worth out of that conference, so I decided to put together a fantasy entry, also. I threw together a first chapter and synopsis based on this idea. And then I won the fantasy/science fiction/horror category of the contest with this entry (I didn't even place in romance).

Then I never wrote any more of the book. I met a romance editor at the conference who invited me to submit something, so I frantically went to finish that romance book (it did become my first published novel, but it wasn't that editor who bought it), and then it was time for this conference and contest for the next year, so I put together a different fantasy entry and won again (I did finish that book, but it hasn't sold), and then I sold my first book to a romance publisher and wrote a couple more for them, and I guess I never got back to this book.

My computer won't even read the disc my files for this book are on, and the only hard copy I have is the critiqued contest entry (ouch -- the rest of the entries must have been awful if the judge said this about mine and I still won -- and it's amazing how much the criticisms can still sting, seventeen years later and with me agreeing with a lot of them in retrospect). I re-read it last week, and the writing isn't quite as bad as I feared it would be, but the structure is all wrong. It's the usual case of a first chapter that could probably be cut out of the finished book. And the plot in the synopsis seriously needs work. So, really, I'm starting with just some characters, a situation, a developed world (that's going to change some) and the barest skeleton of a plot. I'm not using any of the existing pages, so I think that counts as starting from scratch for the purposes of this exercise. I'm changing a bit of the world (moving the time period around, which will add some detail), changing some of the characters and even changing the category this book would fit into (I originally planned it as an adult fantasy, but I think I'll try writing it as a middle-grade novel, aimed at grades 4-7).

I am wrestling with some decisions about the book. The original version started with a scene of the bad guys meeting to discuss their evil plans (yeah, I know, yikes), so the reader knew the trouble the good guys were in before the good guys knew, and that meeting also outlined some of the backstory of the world (I may have even used the dreaded "as you know ..." construction to explain the backstory. But I was 22 and very inexperienced in writing). Now I'm trying to decide if I need to do any scenes from the bad guys' point of view so the readers will know what's going on, or if I should just keep everything a mystery until the good guys figure it out. So far, I've been writing it just from the good guys' POV and keeping it a mystery, but I seem to have developed a habit of creating a lot of half-overheard conversations.

I think as soon as I finish the book proposal for The New Project I really will have to do some plotting/planning on this one before I get too deep into the book. And now it's writing time!

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