It is, of course, November, which means one thing: the thirty day orgy of creativity known as NaNoWriMo. Of course, I know all of my faithful readers have the entire month marked in red on their calendars, but to those who might be new, I will explain.
The goal of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writer's Month) is to produce a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. Beginning at midnight on November 1 and ending on November 30, those who choose to participate in this activity forswear friends, family, and proper nutrition for the duration. In order to complete your book on time, a daily goal of 1,667 words is the minimum to be completed. Editing is discouraged; NaNoWriMo is not about quality, it is about quantity. (December, however, is NaNoFiMo, or National Novel Finishing Month, in which one's NaNoWriMo work can, hopefully, be edited into something semi-coherent.)
Last year I began participating in NaNoWriMo early in November, as soon as I heard about it. I had no plot, no ideas, and had to start over more than once. I got my 50,000 words, though, meaning I "won" the contest. Unfortunately, that book was terrible. Seriously, completely terrible. Easily the worst thing I have ever written, and I include the companion book to "The Outsiders" I wrote in eighth grade in that statement. We will never speak of it again.
This year I started thinking about NaNoWriMo in August. I knew what I wanted to write: an account of the 1900 Galveston Hurricane, told from the perspective of a young woman who lived through it. The twist? Those who have been reading my blog for a while have probably guessed: she lives through it by becoming a vampire. Yes, another vampire tome has fallen from my pen like drifting autumn leaves, and I couldn't be happier. I began researching with enthusiasm. (Just a note: I never research anything beyond a quick Google search, so this is very uncharacteristic behavior for me.) I drove to Galveston several times and looked at buildings that had survived the storm. I went to the Rosenberg Library and visited the archives, where original documents from that time period are stored. I read books, including the superb "Isaac's Storm" by Erik Larson. I knew who my heroine was and what she was doing, I knew how she was going to get caught in the storm and where she was going to shelter. I even knew who the vampire who attacked her was and his back story. (He's a Karankawa Indian, by the way, another bit of obscure coastal Texas lore I was happy to include.)
The problem? When November 1 hit, I wrote almost 10,000 words in the first 24 hours. By the end of the first week I was at 25,000. I hit 50,000 words on November 15. I finished the book, at 56,000 words, on November 15. Now what?
Start a second one.
Here's my reasoning: if I finished a 50,000 word book in the first 15 days, I could do another one in the second 15 days, right? I neglected to think about the two months of research and thought that had gone into the first one (for the record, "Immortal Isle"). What was I thinking?
This new one, tentatively titled "Magic Number," is awful. Truly, tremendously awful. It may, in fact, be worse in many respects than last year's. If I had any artistic integrity, I would junk it and start over and really challenge myself (as I write this, it's November 21, so 9 days to go) but no matter how bad this one is, I'm 37,000 words into it and have an actual shot at finishing the thing.
I love young adult literature. "Magic Number" was intended as an homage to one of my favorite YA authors, Norma Johnston, the queen (in my opinion) of teenage angst. Unfortunately, I seem to be incapable of writing a simple, biographical novel. Halfway through this one, we discover that one corner of our love triangle is the child of secret agents who is being recruited to join the agency herself, and adventure ensues.
Really? Really, Deb? A teenage love story drama turns into a suspense thing about secret agents? Nice. I just hope I can finish the thing in time to go back and fix some things. Like take out the whole "secret agent" thing. I wish I could do it now, but I can't go back and erase 100 pages with only nine days to go.
Or can I? More later...
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