I first participated in NaNoWriMo in 2010. Earlier that year, some amorphous something had happened to me, and suddenly I was prolific: full of words, full of ideas, never enough time to get them down. I’d heard of this NaNo thing, and it always sounded too hard, but this time I figured why not? It’s not an actual contest; it’s a big, online group activity. Worst case, I’d fail and have fun.
When I won, it was an enormous confidence boost. The only other novel-length thing I’d finished was a piece of fanfic written in the early 1990s. I’d written a few short stories, but generally wrote vignettes, little character bits, small events and bits of setting. I’d never spun a fully original novel before.
My 2010 novel didn’t go anywhere. In 2011, though, I wrote ALIBI, which became DEAD HOUR, which became half of THE COLD BETWEEN. In 2012, I wrote ANTISTAR, which became the other half of THE COLD BETWEEN. 2013, 2014, and 2015 became THE COLD BETWEEN (finished), REMNANTS OF TRUST, and BREACH OF CONTAINMENT. (In some combination. To be honest, I don’t remember all that well.)
2016 was Book 4. And 2017. And now 2018.
Why this is my third take on this book:
- In September of 2016, about 6 weeks before NaNoWriMo, I was told my book sales were awful and I needed to stop writing the series. (No, REMNANTS hadn’t even been released yet. Welcome to publishing.) (Also worth mentioning that I received the opposite advice that December, although I was strongly urged to write a non-series book first.)
- In October of 2017, less than a month before NaNoWriMo, I was told I lacked the ability to advance my career. (Fuck that. I wrote anyway. But not nearly as well as I might have otherwise.)
Of 2017 in particular, I think it’s fair to say I was not in a terrific mental space. Everything I’d always loved about writing had been systematically stripped away from me. I kept doing it because writing is just the thing I do.
I’m still doing it because writing is just the thing I do.
There are a lot of decisions I’d make differently if I could transfer my current knowledge to my earlier self. I have no idea if anything would have changed. Most of those decisions have to do with standing up for myself, so I have to believe I’d at least be in a better place mentally.
But since time travel isn’t a thing, I am here in November 2018, writing Book 4 again.
It’s bringing back memories–a lot of them bad. But it’s also bringing me back to my people, my universe, my world that feels so familiar to me. My world isn’t done with me, so I’m not done with it. (I’m still figuring out who Greg gets to punch in this one. He would’ve punched Herrod in the last one but, well, you know.)
Books percolate in the back of my head. I can’t outline anything–or rather, my first draft is my outline. I pour the book out onto the table, and only then, when I can see the mushy, amorphous whole, can I start properly shaping it. In 2016 and 2017, I poured out about half of Book 4 (including an ending, which is generally the most important thing for me to know about a story). But while I was working on the non-series book, Book 4 kept percolating, and now I have a bunch of different subplots.
So this year, I’m starting over. I have the first six chapters outlined, which is great, since I’m already on Chapter 9. 🙂 I may have too many subplots. I may be de-emphasizing the bits that are the most important. No worries; I’ll know that by the time I’m done, and I’ll revise. This is how I write books. This is how I’ve always written books. (It’s also why I’ll never be one of those super-successful authors who manages 6-8 books a year. Oh, well.)
As for my mental health…well, it goes back and forth. It’s a good thing I’m leaving the non-series book for a month, because it sustained a bit of a blow in October, and I still need to muster the energy to find it a home. It’s a good thing I’m getting back to Greg and Elena and Jessica and all the new characters, because they’ve been having conversations in the back of my head for years now, and stuff’s starting to overflow. (Greg keeps me steady. Don’t know why. He’s a volatile person who does’t understand himself at all but understands other people extremely well. Perhaps he simply knows me well enough to keep me going.)
Flashbacks are inevitable. But that’s the beauty of NaNoWriMo: your job is to write. On a good day? Write. On a bad day? Write. When you don’t know what to write? Write. When you think your writing is awful? Write. Flashbacks? Write, dammit. All writers struggle. Write anyway.
In the last eight Novembers, I’ve written good words and bad words. I’ve written trite characters, and whole people who still live in my head. I’ve written inconsistent worlds, and vivid, alien ones. And every single year I’ve hit 50,000 words.
I have no idea how this November is going to go. But one way or another, I’ll win.