The last time I was drafting a novel, I used checklists, maps, house plans, foam boards, photos, a loose outline, and a bunch of notes to keep myself on track. It worked beautifully. That manuscript, working title The Bone Garden, is making the rounds among some literary agents I deeply respect. I have high hopes for it to be my debut novel.
But in the meantime, I’m beginning my work on a new manuscript. This time around I’m doing some of the same preparatory work. I’ve been busy reading background material and making notes.
I’ve managed to outline the first half of the book and am already adding notes to it.
I’ve been spending a lot of time simply focusing on who my protagonist is and where she is coming from, work that I’ve not done quite as much of on the front end in the past.
I’m doing much more of this preparatory backstory work now because I’m hoping to write in a very deep first person point of view, and it’s hard to do that if you don’t know your protagonist intimately from the very start.
I’ve made a list of big thematic questions that will be considered in the course of the story. I’ve even written the beginnings of a query letter to focus my mind on the core story.
All of this preparation amounts to me being able to start off the drafting process with a clear idea of where I’m going and how I’m going to get there. Every day new information falls into place. Every day I add to my little notebook. Every day the story takes up more permanent residence in my brain.
And on November 1st, the first day of NaNoWriMo, it will begin to take up residence on the page.
The scales have tipped, the tumblers in the lock have fallen into place, the dominoes are all lined up and the finger is making contact with the very first one.
What am I talking about? My next novel.
Next novel? But you haven’t even published your first one. Yes, that’s true. But writers write. And this next one, which I hope will be my second to be published (eventually), has been brewing in my mind since the day after I typed “The End” at the bottom of my last manuscript. And on Thursday night, a key plot element was birthed in my mind like a baby star and I am just about ready to really start writing.
Since early March, I have been feeding my mind a steady diet of classic literature in preparation for writing this next novel, and a few weeks ago I finally picked up this beautiful book, a gift last Christmas…
I’m smitten anew and excited to say that Emily Dickinson’s life, spirit, and poetry will get a major nod in the novel. In fact, the backbone of the story is constructed of books and poems, the kind that stay with us throughout our lives and to which we return again and again. It is precisely the kind of story the English major in me can hardly believe she will be privileged to write–one that celebrates our vast body of literature in English, makes a case for the singular importance of the printed book, and traces how our identities are wrapped up in what we read at formative points in our lives.
I’m so excited to get started, I don’t know that I will be able to wait until NaNoWriMo, which I had been thinking of attempting for the third time. And if I cheat, I simply could not wear a t-shirt like this with any sense of integrity…
And this is kind of how I feel about that shirt…
Will patience prevail? Only time will tell.
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