1-Week NaNoWriMo Check-Up

We’re one week into National Novel Writing Month and I hope that any of you who are participating are finding success. I’ve been happy with my progress thus far — 15,535 words — and I have to admit it is due to two things: lots of pre-thought and a little pre-writing.

On the pre-thought tip, I’ve been ruminating on this story for at least a couple years, and in the past couple months my disparate ideas codified into something with enough layers and complexity to work for a novel.

As for the pre-writing, in the week or so before November started, I forced myself to write chapter summaries for where I saw the beginning chapters going and managed to get up through chapter 17.

What has that meant for the writing? Well, in this first week I’ve managed just shy of a chapter a day because I already knew the main plot and character points I was going to cover in each. I doubt very much that I can keep up that pace all month with a heavy workload of writing copy for the next catalog and Thanksgiving coming up. But a solid start does wonders for my motivation to push forward, and all those chapter summaries make it easier for me to write in short bursts that I can fit in here and there throughout the day as time presents itself rather than waiting for perfect conditions of a long block of alone time that will not be interrupted.

So what happens when I reach chapter 18 and the summaries are no more? Well, at that point I should be over the halfway point of the novel and the forward momentum of all that story should make the going easier. Plus, I do know the ending already. I may take an hour or so and write out the next five or ten chapter summaries before I go on writing the novel. Or I may find that that would just slow me down.

One thing’s for sure, though. NaNoWriMo came at just the right time for me this year and the progress I’m making on a new story after so much time fiddling with old ones or making false starts on new ones has me feeling much less anxious than I have been in a long time.

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something…True?

Remember in this post how I mentioned I’m neither plotter nor panster while writing, but a planter? Imagine my amusement last night as I flipped through the May/June issue of Writer’s Digest (which came in March) to find they had a fairly long article talking about plantsing. Great minds and all that…

Well, I’ve found myself busy planting again. Not in the garden, though that time is drawing near, but in a fresh document on my laptop. And frankly, I’m a bit surprised at myself. I don’t tend to start writing something new as spring supplants winter. I’ve done most of the drafting of my novel manuscripts during the dark and snowy mornings and evenings between November and March. Then I set things aside for a bit as I tend to the yard and the gardens — you know, real planting. And once that’s all under control and busy growing, I pick literary things back up in early summer to revise.

Yet this year I find myself ready and excited to draft a new project as March rolls into April. To be fair, I did start it at the very beginning of autumn last year (though because I was in Albuquerque at the time, it felt like summer). I had to put it down a while as I worked on edits for The Bone Garden for my agent and then worked on a big revision of I Hold the Wind, which I’m hoping to send my agent’s way in the next month or two. But now that my mind is off those projects, I find I’m itching to get back to this new story.

Except, it’s not exactly new. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m taking parts of an old concept and changing up the plot and characters into something new. I’m borrowing the old setting, a few characters, and part of the conflict, but combining them with new characters, new conflicts, and new, more personal themes. I finished the first chapter this morning as the birds sang and the sun rose. And though I had to stop and get to work, the next chapter is coalescing in my mind.

This is the thrilling, intoxicating part of the very long and arduous process of creating a novel — where the premise you’ve been nurturing in your head begins to take the form of written sentences and paragraphs and pages, like watching the slow, steady growth of the spring bulbs in the back yard. First they are just scattered points of green among last year’s rotting leaves. Then they are the length of your fingernail, then they reach to your first knuckle. Slowly, each day, they gain ground, press up toward the warming sun. And finally they flower. And that’s the point you know spring is here, this story is going somewhere marvelous, and you’re dying to take others along with you.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA