I was pushing to complete the chapter because I knew I was going to check in with you today to tell you about my progress on the 30-Day NaNoWriMo outline-y thing. As you know -- and if you don’t know because you’ve never visited here before, this is your best and last opportunity to run off to a happier website – the deal is this: Christine Frazier studied three huge best-sellers, boiled their storylines down to 30 different plot points, and then provided an outline for anyone who wanted to try to complete a novel in a month.
She believes, if a writer followed her outline by doing one step at a time, like this –
STEP ONE: OPEN THE STORY ON A “BITTERSWEET CELEBRATION”
– and made each step a completed chapter in their work-in-progress, the scribe would see her or his 30 steps become a 30 chapter novel in exactly 30 days. This made a lot of sense to me. I wanted to try it. However….
I’ve never worked with anyone else’s outline before. Christine’s challenge was particularly trying to me because (a) I usually work with a partner, and I’m spinning solo this time; and (b) even with a partner’s help, we rarely complete a chapter in a single day; and (c) I don’t write the kinds of books Christine studied. Who knew if a mail order bride story could somehow fit within the framework of something like the first Harry Potter novel?
But I didn’t let any of that deter me. I had an ace in the hole. Unlike most of Christine’s followers, I wasn’t concerned about writing an entire novel. I only wanted to produce a novella. 30,000 words tops. As Glynn has often said, only to be proven wrong, “Piece of cake.” Plus, the concept sounded like fun and, with my honey hard at work for a month and a half, I was ready for some fun. I decided to find out if I could make it work.
After all, there’s no such thing as failure, as some guy (whose name I forget) once wrote. There’s only doing something, learning from it, and moving on.
What I’ve found out so far? My 30-day novella is going to take so much longer than 30 days to complete. Today I should be completing Chapter 14. Yesterday, I had my nose to the grindstone, desperate to complete Chapter 8. Yep, instead of clocking in with seven chapters a week, I’ve been producing four. I’m letting Christine down.
It didn’t start that way. The first day, I rolled up my sleeves and pounded out my chapter quite easily. It was a little under 1,000 words, I knew I’d make up the difference with some future chapter, and I was on my way to a 30,000 novella. Then, day two, I rolled up my sleeves, pounded out another chapter – but this one took an extra couple of hours, and popped up at 1,500 words, but that was okay, I’d do a shorter one the next day. Except the next chapter wasn’t shorter, it was longer, and I had to research department stores in 1876, revolving doors (turns out, they hadn’t been invented yet), women’s fashions in the Victorian era, men’s hats, popular foods of the time and – sweet Heaven above, I wasn’t close to done by the end of the day. Or the day after. The next chapter was longer still, with more research.
Yesterday, Chapter 8 wrapped at three times the length of Chapter 1. It took three times as long to complete it, too, and I began to worry I’d never get it done. It just went on and on.
Most of the NaNoWriMo pros suggest getting up early or staying up late to finish your daily chapter. This is a wonderful idea for people who aren’t me. I have a sweet spot when I feel creative and inventive and that’s always during daylight hours. I’ve discovered this sweet spot is not at 4:15 AM because, when I got up at 4:15 AM to write Chapter 4, I stared groggily at the computer before writing foggy-headed nonsense that I had to rewrite later in the day. If you believe I’ll get better with practice, you’re incorrect in this assumption.
Another time that’s not the sweet spot for writing is 8:30 PM. Tackling Chapter 6, I learned that, at 8:30 PM, I stare sleepily at the computer before falling asleep in my chair. When I woke up with a stiff neck, I wrote wooden, terrible dialogue that I can’t begin to rewrite the next day because it’s so terrible. So the early and late thing just don’t work for me.
What did work for me is the silly randomness of the outline. The story has jumped into directions that Glynn and I would never have considered, and it’s been great fun. I don’t know that the tale I’m writing will ever be great literature but, I tell you now, it’s a very different kind of mail order story. There’s lots of action, lots of cooking, a villain, a herald, romance, and a cat. A very-important-to-the-story cat that makes me miss the ones I’ve loved.
Less than a third of the way along, I no longer think I’m writing a novella. In an effort to move this book along, I won’t be blogging next week. Probably. After all, I said that a couple of weeks ago and showed up, anyway. But I’ll report back in around mid-February and share how I’m doing.
Please let me be doing better!