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!

NaNoWriMo Wrap-Up

As the dust settles from this year’s NaNoWriMo, I am looking forward to reflecting over the past month, while also looking to the future (which I’ll save for another post).

(Before I get into it, one last time for 2018, be sure to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already: 2018 – December 1st)

It was roller coaster this year. I kept thinking of things one way, then finding out I was wrong, and I thought I’d written the climax at least twice before I actually did.

aha

To start with, I gave myself the badge for having a “Eureka Moment” on day 13. That was when I still thought the story was a pure romance, but I needed a bit more meat to the story. But over the course of the month, as I began to realize what this story really was, I had the mother of all “Aha!” moments late at night on day 25. (I will explain more about this tomorrow in a longer post, but I want to keep this one more of an overview of the month.)

I then proceeded to pants the rest of the novel, since I was so far off my outline it wasn’t even funny (my outline had ended when the romance reached fruition, but I now had to go past that). And that led to a series of smaller, but equally exciting, “Aha!” moments as I wrote the final climax and conclusion.

every day

This badge is gained by updating your word count every day. The last 2 NaNos, I didn’t write every day for reasons that were vastly different between the 2 years. This year, I was determined to do that, maybe as much as anything because I was really hoping to get back into the habit of doing some sort of writing work every day, even after NaNo ended. I haven’t had that habit for probably close to 3 years now. It makes me very sad.

I am well aware that some of the things I did to make sure to get words in this month won’t work outside of NaNo. For example, during NaNo, I am writing the first draft, rather than revising, brainstorming ways to get past issues, or just writing practice. I pick up where I left on in the scene the previous day, and for the most part, just write. Revising, rewriting, fixing, etc. on an already drafted novel tends to not be as quick of work. Also, I can convince my family that I need to shut myself away for half an hour to get at least some writing work done for this month, but outside of that, they tend to ignore my pleas. However, if I write most days from here on, I will still be very happy.

too many errors

I was actually really excited when this error message popped up in my Word document on the 27th. I saw it for the first time in 2014, and it made me feel like I was truly doing NaNo right. Ever since then, I’ve wondered if it would happen again. In a document of 50,000+ words, when you’re doing your best to ignore the mistakes and keep going, adding in all of the names of people and locations, apparently it can get to be a bit much for Word to handle. After I got this error message, the curvy red, green, and even blue underlines stopped showing up, which was fine with me.

day 30

Between the days when I thought the story would be too short and over too quickly and slowed down on writing, and the days when I realized I’d added too much and might not finish by the end of the month, I averaged 2894 words this month. I ended the month with 86,000 words, but to me, the most important thing was that I finished the draft.

I don’t share any of this to brag; I know that it much easier for me to get the words out than it is for some people. I also know there are people who accomplished quite a bit more during NaNo, with more difficult circumstances than I had. And I know many people who didn’t win, and I don’t want any of them to think that I am better off than them. We are all winners for having any words more at the end of the month than at the beginning.

I’ve said this many times, and I still believe it–NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone. But for those of us who love it, it is quite the month!

How about you? How did your month go? Did you learn anything or accomplish any big moments this month? Or did you skip NaNo this year?

NaNoWriMo Day 30

The Words: 4,874 on this final day of NaNoWriMo.

Because it is the last day of NaNo, and because I knew I was close to the end of the draft, but unsure of how close, I had hoped to be able to write a lot of the day, or at least until I finished the story. However, I have been working on a project for work all week and had to finish it today. But I sat down a little before 9 pm, which is already earlier than I’ve been getting to my writing time lately. Brought up @NaNoWordSprints and dove right in.

The Story: Yesterday, I said that I had written the climax then. Oh, how wrong I was yet again this month. As I thought about the rest of the story throughout the day today, I realized what the climax should be, and it was ahead of me.

I’m not going to say anything else about the story, but I did write the climax today, and finished the draft!

This will lead me to book 3 of this trilogy, and while that book is still quite a mystery to me, I now have a lot more of an understanding of how that book will go than I did before this month (and that’s considering that I didn’t even know I was writing book 2 of the trilogy until about a week ago).

Final word count: 86,841

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already: 2018 – November 30th. Be sure to check back tomorrow too, as there is often a final comic on December 1st.
The final episode of the NaNoMusical is perfect for the final day of NaNo. Be sure to watch the wrap-up!

NaNoWriMo Day 29

The Words: 5419 today.

I more than made up for yesterday’s shorter word count. After midnight last night, I wrote for another hour, trying to salvage the night’s writing, even if it counted for the next day. That got me about 2500 words. Then from around 10:30 to 11:30, I did a few sprints with @NaNoWordSprints and even wrote in between.

I’m getting more and more excited about this story. It’s funny, because on Nov. 13th, I gave myself the badge that says I had a eureka moment.

aha

I thought that filling out the middle of the novel (and adding more words to a somewhat short novel) by showing one of the MCs in her home environment (which was then part of a more important moment) was a big “Aha!” moment.

Then, on the 25th, I had the defining “Aha!” moment of this novel, in which I realized what I was really writing. (I won’t explain it again, but go here if you want to read about it–it’s near the bottom of the post.) Then I had to change course with the climax and conclusion of the story.

I kept thinking I needed to sit down with a notebook and write out some new ideas for those things. I thought I was going to outline the last few scenes of the book. I cannot stress this enough–I have never done well as a pantser. However, I never got around to doing any of that planning, but kept having to come back to my writing without any more idea of what was going to happen.

The discovery and smaller “Aha!” moments that have come out of that writing have been amazing! Don’t get me wrong–a lot of it is going to need some serious work. I wrote several scenes that I later had to mark for deletion and wrote something else when I realized it needed to go a different way. But I think I am on the right track now, and I am hoping I will have time to finish the draft tomorrow. (I’m past the climax, but I don’t know how long the conclusion will end up being.)

The Story: When Penny and Nathan returned to the city, they found Clark under guard. He had reportedly attacked a doctor in the hospital. We see the story from Clark’s perspective and find out that…well, he sort of did.

He went to the hospital to try to uncover a big secret that he suspects some of the doctors are hiding. When he found out he was on the right track, the doctor tried to cover up the truth by tricking Clark into attacking him.

Clark was taken to the king, who fortunately knows enough about what’s going on to trust him when he says he has a story to tell him, but that first, they have to go somewhere safe. So they go to the remote base that Lorrin is the commander of, and Clark starts to lay out all of his suspicions.

Total word count: 81,967

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already: 2018 – November 29th

NaNoWriMo Day 28

The Words: 1258 today.

I was hoping for another 3000 words today, but it just didn’t happen. My husband had the afternoon off work, so we decided to go shopping (some Christmas, some just regular shopping) with the kids. We didn’t get home until 11 pm, so I hopped onto @NaNoWordSprints and did a couple sprints to at least get as much as I could written.

I’m going to write at least another 1000 words before I call it quits for the night, and still try to get a full 3000 more tomorrow. I’m still trying to figure out what else needs to happen before this story is over (and what the ending will be), but I think I’m starting to have some ideas.

The Story: Clark, Nathan, and Penny discuss going back to the other country soon. Nathan is worried about the Madness situation that they are dealing with, especially since they know nothing about it. And he wants to introduce Penny to the country, since he’s been offered a position there.

Clark wants to go back, because he wants to do a little digging into the possible conspiracy he’s sniffing out.

So they return 2 weeks after they were last there, and have about an hour before they can see the king. Nathan and Penny decide to explore the countryside a bit, while Clark stays in the city.

Total word count:76,548

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already: 2018 – November 28th

NaNoWriMo Day 27

The Words: 3,061 today.

I was hoping for another 3000 words today, which I was able to do. I have no idea if this goal will get me to the end of the book by the end of the month, but I’m sure hoping.

I went to a write-in tonight, which again, technically, is not a write-in. It’s a writer’s group, and a very small one lately at that. There was just me and another person tonight, which has been the case a few other times this month. We didn’t end up writing because we talked the whole time, but it was still a lot of fun!

Still, I had to get all of the words in after my daughter went to bed. Fortunately, good ol’ @NaNoWordSprints was there to help.

The Story: We follow Nathan and Clark back to Pithea. I truly didn’t expect Pithea to be in this story at all, so this was a special situation for me. I didn’t expect Penny to be in the story either, but suddenly, there she was! (Penny is Nathan’s wife.) Nathan and Clark filled her in on their most recent trip to the other country (which still doesn’t have a name…).

Total word count: 75,290

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already: 2018 – November 27th

NaNoWriMo Day 26

The Words: 3490 today.

I set my goal for today at 3000 words again. I did a few word wars with people from my region on Slack first. My word count went down with every sprint we did. I had gone from smooth-flowing dialog into…a love scene. I enjoy romantic scenes (to a degree), but I have a harder time being quick with them.

Then I did some sprints with the @NaNoWordSprints feed on Twitter. I basically told myself to worry less about the emotion in the scene and more about getting through it more quickly. I sped up a little, but mostly it just helped when I got past that part.

The Story: The king and prince finished a somewhat heated conversation with Nathan and Clark. They also offered Nathan a spot on their advisory board. I’m not even sure myself if he’ll take the role, because it will have a pretty big affect on other stories. I didn’t even think of this until today’s writing.

Then we go back to “present” time and the king and prince go back to the capital city.  Events have been set in motion that have ramifications to the entire world!

That may sound very dramatic, but I just realized something unbelievable last night, which probably won’t make sense to anyone except for me. For a long time, I’ve known a huge secret about this world that none of my characters knew. But one of my characters was always destined to blow the lid off that secret, in what I have come to realize will likely be a trilogy of books within the greater series. I have written book 1, but have been unable to pin down what book 2 would entail. Last night, I realized that this might just be book 2! And I am both excited and a little nervous about this understanding. A lot more thinking and brainstorming will have to go into figuring this out. But that is a job for after NaNo.

Total word count: 72,229

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already: 2018 – November 26th

NaNoWriMo Day 25

The Words: 3977 on my Neo.

My goal for today was 3000 words. I got started around 10 pm, and the feed at @NaNoWordSprints was between sprint-runners. So I went back to the word crawl I started a few yesterday, themed for Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. A 15-minute sprint for that produced 832 words, and then the Twitter feed came alive.

After 2 sprints, I had 2400 words, and a #1k30min got me the rest of the words.

The Story: I started today’s words with a few more additions to the ongoing letter Lorrin has been writing to the king. There are now 5 entries, all made after big events happened, when Lorrin wished she could have been there for him, but hadn’t been able to. The last entry is something of an explanation from her, as she decided to give the letter to the king during the “present time” of the story. Unless I change things in the next draft (which I am at least considering), they won’t have seen each other for almost a year at this point, so in a way, Lorrin is using this letter to break the ice that has built up between them.

Then I went into another flashback where I explore the aftermath of the war with Antios. The king is faced with a very difficult decision about whether or not to tell his subjects, as well as his country’s allies and even enemies, about the magic-like Power that he has only learned about himself recently. He consults the prince and their advisors, but in the end, the decision has to be pushed back.

Total word count: 68,739

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already: 2018 – November 25th
And with 5 days left of NaNoWriMo, be sure to check out episode 5 of the NaNoMusical. This one contains my favorite song of the whole musical!

NaNoWriMo Day 24

The Words: 4274 on my Neo.

My family’s big Thanksgiving event was today, but I had time in the morning to write. I wrote 2500 before I had to stop to get ready to leave. Half of it was with a word crawl themed for Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, and the other half was with @NaNoWordSprints.

I took my Neo with me to where we were going for dinner, because after the meal, we always play lots of board games. I often watch as much as I play, so most years I get at least a few words in for NaNoWriMo.

Tonight, I did a few sprints with the aforementioned Twitter feed and decided to see if I could get 3000 for today, plus another 1200 to make up for getting less than my new goal yesterday.

The Story: Antios has sufficiently shown his new power to the king, and then vowed to show him exactly how useful it can be. The rest of that is played out in what I’ve already written.

Then I finally went back the the “present time” where this story started. Against my original outline, Lorrin and the king are interrupted before they have a chance to express their real feelings. The prince comes to talk to his dad about the enemy that has been spotted in the area, and how this would be a great place to start working toward peace between the nations.

The king promises to discuss it in the morning, but is too tired from traveling. So they turn in, but when the king checks on his son, he’s missing.

Total word count: 64,762

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already: 2018 – November 24th

NaNoWriMo Day 23

The Words: 1840 today.

Yesterday, I decided to shoot for 3000 per day in an attempt to make sure I’m able to finish this draft before the month ends. I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time to write today, but I didn’t expect to get started so late, and to be so tired.

I worked today, which meant running escape rooms for the Black Friday crowd, which was pretty crazy this year. I was at work until 6, so didn’t get home until close to 7, and then had a few errands to run before I could even get completely home and get supper. I didn’t get to my writing time until 10:30, and then I ran into further issues.

For one thing, as I mentioned, I was incredibly sleepy. I really didn’t feel like writing at all, but my desire to get this draft done definitely spurred me on some. But another problem that arose was that I lost a paper that I wrote on while at work today. On my way to work, I’d started brainstorming how I wanted the 4 extra scenes that I mentioned yesterday to go, and while I had a few minutes at work, I jotted down those thoughts so I wouldn’t forget them. I put the paper into the pocket of the sweater I wear at work, but by 10:30, it had disappeared. I’m guessing it fell out of my pocket when I was getting my keys out to leave.

I don’t think there was anything really crucial on it, but I still spent some time and frustration searching for it before giving up and joining in on a 28-minute sprint with @NaNoWordSprints. That got me about 1300 words, and then a much shorter sprint got me the rest.

Tomorrow is my family’s big Thanksgiving, so I know I won’t get 3000 words tomorrow either (unless I manage to get up early to write, but I can’t even imagine that right now). But after that I will have 6 more days to try to finish the draft, and I think I can do that.

The Story: I finished the first scene of 4 that I need to write before heading into the last few scenes of the story. The king’s father finished telling him about their country’s history with their enemy to the north.

Then, we skip ahead 2 years and see the king (still a teenager) get some bad news that threatens to end the tenuous peace that currently exists between this country and their enemy to the north.

I also got started on the third scene, which shows the king in more present times, having another conversation with his once-friend Antios, before he becomes an enemy of the nation. He is trying to convince the king to let him show him what he’s discovered, and how it can help their country. He’s not acting like himself, and the king sees him take a swig of a blue fluid that, according to Antios, is everything he’s been searching for.

The king isn’t buying what he’s selling, and the 4th scene should be pretty exciting, as we see Antios become really scary.

Total word count: 60,488

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already: 2018 – November 23rd