November 29, 2007

Four More Years!

Ha, you thought this was some political rant, didn't you?

No, it's my personal chest-thumping post to say that two days ago I flew past 50,000 words in my quest for my fourth consecutive NaNoWriMo achievement. I still have about 5,000 words to go to finish the manuscript, which will weigh in at about 60,000 when all is said and done. Since it's young adult genre, that's in the ballpark from what agentquery.com says about manuscript lengths.

Here is a brief history of my NaNoWriMo experience:

Before I Discovered NaNoWriMo:
I was among the legions of tortured souls who know that someday they will write a novel. My problem was that I'd get a terrific idea and then write the first two chapters and discover, to my horror, that my writing was mediocre, my plot trite and also full of plot holes, and my characters contrived and flat. So I'd abandon the effort and plan to start again when I had time.

NaNoWriMo 2004: "Jumping The Stream"
I sort of snuck into the deal, telling only my wife that I was trying it. She showed support in the way that a mother might show support for a five-year-old who says he is going to grow up to be president of the United States and drive a backhoe. "That's nice, dear." So I wrote the first two chapters, then the third and fourth. I thought my writing was mediocre, my plot trite and full of plot holes, and my characters contrived and flat. But I wrote on, ignoring the problems, committed to hitting 50,000 words in 30 days. And I made it. And I finished the full manuscript at about 65,000 words in late December. And I set it aside. And I read it a few months later. And I saw that it was not utter crap, that it was passable. And a friend read it and said it was not utter crap. But this was a lonely, solitary experience.

NaNoWriMo 2005: "Crossings"
I resurrected a plot I'd developed some years earlier for this one. I went into it full of confidence and vigor, knowing that if I could do it once, I could do it better the second time, and I'd have a literary masterpiece, a best-seller on my hands for sure. Turns out that although this one was not quite utter crap, it was little better than the first one. But I wrote it, it had some good moments in it, and I was proud of it. Sort of. I set it aside. This NaNo I started attending write-ins and joined the online forums a bit.

NaNoWriMo 2006: "Forced Air"
NaNo 2005 led to my connection with a great writing group, which led to a frenzy of short story activity for me. In 2006 I sold my first three short stories to small, literary magazines Thereby Hangs A Tale, THEMA, and The First Line. So when I went into NaNoWriMo in November, it was with the confidence of a home run hitter fresh off a BALCO treatment of "flaxseed oil." I had another literary novel brewing, and while I liked the characters and the premise, the middle was a bit lacking in clarity when I started. But I dove in anyway. After 20,000 words, my characters revolted because the story was so boring, and one of them killed another, and I was whisked away into a frenzied thriller. This schizophrenic novel was not literary enough to be a literary novel, yet it was not really a thriller either. I shelved it.

NaNoWriMo 2007: "Gold Miner's Daughter" (working title)
I really feel I have something this time. For two years I've wanted to try my hand at Young Adult, having enjoyed reading many books with my 11-year-old son. So finally I decided to have a go. The plot and characters came to me in mid summer, and by the end of October I had a workable plot. I've heard happy noises from those who've read excerpts so far, but these are people who have to like me. Like my wife and my friends. When my 11-year-old son reads it, I'll get my first brutally honest feedback. I've hit the 50,000 word level and have just a little to go before I'm done with the first draft.

I've learned a lot over the past few years. I learned I love writing more than I realized. I learned why so many people never finish their books (lots of reasons). I learned why most novelists don't publish until their 3rd or 4th manuscript. I learned how the publishing industry works, and how easy it is to fail. And I learned quickly how much I had to grow as a writer in order to get to where I am today, and how much farther there is to go before I reach my goals.

I'm proud to have written four novels and sold four short stories in the past few years. I'll be much more proud when I see this new manuscript on the shelf at Borders and Barnes & Noble. After learning why the first few manuscripts were not really salable, I believe I've got a shot with this one.

2 comments:

Ch@ndy said...

I was telling J@na about the plot of your 2007 nanowrimo and she immediately that if it is historically accurate, she could imagine it finding its way as required reading in California middle or high school classrooms, everywhere...in California.

Patois said...

Woo-hoo for you!