Just like a writer

So it is October now, which means November is coming. That is, National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo), my favorite time of year.

I love nanowrimo because it celebrates process, not outcomes. I know there are people who believe life is a zero-sum experience, but nanowrimo lets us all be winners. Heaven knows anyone who wants to write needs that.

I suspect I will be a hybrid nano writer this November. I love the traditional goal of writing a first draft of a brand new novel in the month of November because that is always be my favorite part of the writing process. But I am already in the middle of fleshing out a YA SF novel that has a few scenes written, but lots of holes and notes where the rest of the novel should be. So my goal will be to work on it, which makes me more of a rebel Nano then a traditional Nano, which means… not much. The key is to write.

I will probably talk more about Nano prep this month, but today I want to brag about two good moments in writing I experienced recently, when I felt like, well, a writer :).

Earlier in the month I was spending more time on the YA SF novel that will be my focus for November. I had several days of good writing sessions, but I woke one morning with a sense of dread, fearful that I would not be able to produce anything new. Usually I already have some momentum in my writing, but this time, I knew I had to find a new plot line and address some other challenges with this novel, and I had nothing yet.

But I made myself sit down to write anyway, and it turned out to be a highly productive writing session yielding unexpected and exciting insights into what could happen in this novel.

That was cool.

The second moment has to do with my historical/upmarket novel set during the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot in Wilmington, North Carolina. After countless revisions, I had announced this novel “done,” but in my research into how I might pitch it to an agent, I discovered that I had cut too much, and the total word count might not be enough.

So this month I went in and added 8,000 words.

It was a surprisingly positive experience. First, even though I could be forgiven for being a bit burned out on this novel after so long, I found myself happy to spend time again with some of my main characters. It coincided, fortunately, with feedback from a brilliant writer friend who mentioned one scene was a bit lean (it’s plumper now). I also added a new scene that had been percolating in my head earlier in the process that added some substance to a side character and may make more visible the wealth-stripping aspects of this terrible history. Finally, I surfed through various scenes to see if what might bring it more to life for the reader. At times, I felt like an artist adding extra depth and shading to a portrait.

So that was cool. Not only did it help me manage what I call my revision anxiety, but also the experience gave me more confidence that I really can make unexpected revisions if an editor were to request it.

Just like a writer would.

Hydra Head

While I keep gathering ideas for blog posts, I have prioritized my writing time for the novel revision (#2,345), not the blog. I am not sure if that has resulted in more time on the revision, but perhaps it’s some kind of superstition, similar to ones attributed to sports players.

Still, I thought it might be wise to post something today, just to remind myself I have a blog. I finished my revision of the point of view for the novel, at least a rough version. I then planned to review how different plot points and hints fit together and to look for what was missing. There is a light mystery tying the book together, and I’ve been kicking around how to make it as believable and seamless as possible. I decided keeping it simple might be best for what I’m doing. Then I reread the full report on the Wilmington Race Riot. This is perhaps a sad commentary, but the first time, I was so upset and angry by what I read that I had to take breaks frequently. Since then, we had the 2016 election, and I also just recently read the biographies of Frederick Douglass and Ida B. Wells, and now it all just feels so d#$% familiar.

Anyway, reading it completely made me see more that I should or could add, so much so that I realize that writing a novel can be a bit of a Hydra head experience. You fix one part, and suddenly there are five more areas that need attention.