Evolution of a NaNoNovel

Last month was a whirlwind for me, and as I look back and see how my NaNoNovel changed drastically throughout the month, I want to share that trip.

I started with an outline for a pure romance that was set in a nebulous world that I hadn’t put any thought into. The plot and characters were the core of the story, and it would be written with a mind toward a medieval time period, though not necessarily set in medieval times on earth. This happened mostly because I didn’t take any time to plan for NaNoWriMo during the time leading up to it. I haven’t been in a writing place (outside of NaNo) for the last few years, despite my devotion to it in the past.

This story, which I named “Protector” on day 2, was one I dreamed up 2 years ago during November, when what I was writing about was too hard. Then I outlined it a year later, realizing that if I didn’t get the scenes down, I’d forget key details. During October this year, I did consider writing this story, but wasn’t sold on it, and was still considering other ideas. At a writing group 2 days before November 1st, a fellow writer suggested that, because I’ve been busy and was still not prepared, I should just write a simple, but fun romance (I’d stated during the writing group that I enjoyed writing romance sometimes, though usually more subtle romances, and definitely nothing racy). She said that I should think of what I would consider a romantic location, somewhere I’ve always thought was a beautiful place, and write about myself as the MC, meeting someone and falling in love.

My mind immediately went to the coast of Maine (I’ve never been there but always romanticized it), and pretty quickly I thought of the story I had outlined in the past. It was a romance with very little substance outside of the romance, and the final scenes were set in a place that I imagined to be quite like the coast of Maine. So I was sold.

It didn’t take me long to decide that this story could actually be set in the same story world as my other books. However, while most of those books take place in the country of Pithea, this one would take place in a different country–one that was very different from Pithea. The main difference is that Pithea has made the Power part of their everyday lives. This other country, named Altmoor, doesn’t even know about the Power, and certainly doesn’t use it. However, because the Power does exist, I knew that some of the fantastical elements that I had dreamed up before I knew what kind of world this would be could be adjusted to fit into my main world.

In particular, there’s a bad guy who brings his army against Altmoor, its allies, and even its enemies. He is actually from Altmoor, but learned about the Power on his own, and uses it against his home region. The problem with that came when my outline simply said that he was defeated somehow. I found that I couldn’t just…move on, but there wasn’t an easy way for him to be defeated by this region that didn’t know anything about this sorcery he possessed.

Another issue I had with my original outline was that it didn’t produce a very long story on its own. It likely would have come up just shy of 50k words, which I realized on day 6, when I was halfway through the outline, but not halfway through 50k words (I was at 21k). At that point, I decided to slow down on my word count, while also thinking of more meat to add to the story (not just padding, but actual story that could stay in later). I was really excited about the first new scenes that I added, even counting it as the “Aha!” moment that would get me the “Eureka Moment” badge on the NaNo website. I added other things too, and it worked out pretty well until day 22, when I started to worry that I wasn’t going to be able to finish the draft by the end of the month because I’d added too much story.

This all started with the completely out-of-left-field idea for me to bring in 2 characters from my other novels. They’re from Pithea, and are very well-trained in the use of Power, so I decided that they were going to learn about the bad guy and come to help. I loved including them. At this point, I realized that the story had changed from being a pure romance to being an introduction to the first country outside of Pithea and its union that the reader is ever shown. An introduction to the rest of the world, showing how there are places out there where the Power isn’t used at all. It was around day 22 that I came to realize this.

Then on day 25, everything changed. It was late at night, after I was done with my writing for the day. I was contemplating the new things that I had come up with and it dawned on me. I was writing book 2 of the “Pursuit of Power” trilogy.

I’ll try to make this a brief explanation. There is a big secret that overshadows all of my books, and one man is going to reveal it. His story starts in what has so far been called “Pursuit of Power,” but I knew it was going to take more books to tell the whole story well. Somewhere along the line I decided it would likely be a trilogy (though I’m not married to the idea), just based on how I imagined it playing out, though truthfully, I have done very little planning past the 1st book. It’s just such a daunting task. I have more recently decided that the whole trilogy would be better called “Pursuit of Power,” though whether that will change the name of the first novel or not, I don’t know.

Either way, on the night of the 25th, I realized that what was happening in this book was exactly what would need to happen next in the trilogy. So I wondered if I could make this book work as book 2 of the trilogy, and I think I can. It’s so exciting; I can hardly believe it happened like this!

However, this meant I had to come up with a whole new climax to the novel. In a romance, the climax is often just the culmination of the relationship that’s been building, and I had already written that. But with this new focus, I needed something else. And since, and I can’t stress this enough, I am not a pantser, I knew I needed to take some time to plan out the rest of the story. But I just never got to it, and kept writing, because…well, it’s NaNo.

So I pantsed a climax that was only ho-hum, but figured I could make it more exciting in editing. But as I moved on from there to what was turning out to be a rather long conclusion, I realized how wrong I was again this month, and knew exactly what the climax really needed to be, and it was still ahead of me.

This was day 30, so I was really down to the wire. I had the win already, but I knew that if I didn’t finish the draft before the month ended, it would probably drag on. So I wrote what is a much more exciting climax to this book that has changed so very much in 30 days, and even found a good way to finish the book, while leaving it open to book 3 of this trilogy.

The only problem I have now is a question of how much of what I wrote before the focus change I’ll be able to keep. There were a lot of scenes that focused on two MCs and their relationship developing, but don’t involve the new focus in the slightest bit, that I will have to map out and consider if I have to cut them, or condense them, or what.

I realize this turned out to be a very long description of what happened this month, and kudos to anyone who made it through the whole thing. I just really wanted to get all of this out there somewhere, because it was probably my most exciting NaNoWriMo ever, and that’s saying something. And considering that the excitement came in the pantsing, which I normally avoid like nothing else, it makes it all the more crazy for me.

How about you? If anyone out there wants to share their own journey, I’d love to hear about it!