“In this new novel a dirt-caked ankle wrapped with clacking vampire teeth anklets stepped into view. The SHAMA (temp name) appeared out of nowhere and she let me know that this was her clan and her timeline and before the end of the book she announced that the universe was hers as well. All of this was bent to her desires.
Well, who knew?”
While starting the re-write for last November’s novel I have came across this un-published, nyquil-fueled blog post. It is a bit of a rambling thing, as I was in puke-words-out-mode. Maybe you’ll find, deep within these spaghetti sentences, inspiration to finish your novel.
(November 2018) NANOWRIMO is a month to put aside your inner critic, to cast out your nay-saying inner voice, to open up the box where the words are hidden and pour them out. I was not successful at my first nanowrimo attempt in 2016. I only managed about 13,000 words. I had just completed a novel and was in the midst of prepping it for its self-published publication date. So, during the writing sessions with my buddies, I enjoyed encouraging them and cheering them on to their 50,000 word goal. I stalled and instead wrote the blurbs and such I would use for an online party for the release of my first completed self-published novel. I couldn’t think too much about the next one at the time. Cheering them on was addictive. I wanted them to feel what completing a novel feels like! They all surpassed the 50,000 word count and I was amazed at how good they were. They could write so very well! They were all shocked too, being their first time in a nanowrimo.
This year’s nanowrimo was different. I was very curious to see what my word count could be like if I removed distractions and just W.R.O.T.E. I had the previous 13,000 words and an outline for the prequel to that first novel. (Which by this year has picked up by a publisher and distributed internationally! WHAT?!?!?! Such a great year. But, I digress.)
So, as luck would have it I had changed my career to go back to the classroom and away from academic administration. What did that mean? A very scary choice, in fact. Leaving an amazing job that had me working on call at any time 24/7, 52 weeks a year to taking a professor position that had no academic leadership responsibilities, no reports, no company phone, and up to 22 weeks off a year. Mind you, those 22 weeks off meant brushing up on new topics, preparing lectures, etc. All time investment into one’s mind.
You might not think this was a difficult choice and that it looks like the clearest decision to make. I must say, it was difficult and I put it off for years. Trying to balance writing and being an academic dean was something I somewhat accomplished but now looking back I realize I was probably working myself to death. My friends would agree. Shifting careers in academia or most work places for that matter is not easy. You have to have the right opportunity, the right budget/head count, etc.
I write this blog post from my second week off. The longest amount of time off I’ve had in almost 9 years. I have a horrid head cold. I’ve been in bed for a week with it. I expected that though. You don’t run continuously and then just relax. Your body has to release toxins. It is doing so now. Meanwhile, while forced to keep still, I have been testing to see how much I can write each day.
During the academic quarter for the first part of November I could not write very much. Three or four days a week with 800-1600 words a day. Grading, reports, etc. take up a lot of time in the last weeks of the academic quarter. But the bones of the outline were there and I kept going.
As was the case with the novel Absolute Darkness (whose working title at the time was Pitch Black) a character appeared within the first pages. In Absolute Darkness it was Alexander. In this new novel a dirt-caked ankle wrapped with clacking vampire teeth anklets stepped into view. The SHAMA (temp name) appeared out of nowhere. And she let me know that this was her clan and her timeline and before the end of the book she announced that the universe was hers as well. All of this was bent to her desires. Well, who knew?
Once the quarter was completed and I had the week of Thanksgiving off I was able to start throwing down some serious words onto the page. The word count picked up but I was still not even at the halfway point. Thanksgiving was wonderful and I actually managed a thousand words before everyone got up that morning. A thousand words BEFORE my cup of coffee. I could do this.
Then everyone left and I had the house for one week – and I got sick. Perfect. I had a reason to stay still. And even blurry eyed from medicine I was able to seriously throw down words. I just followed the SHAMA and asked what she was going to do next. Then Alexander fell in love and I asked what that young girl was about. She was very tragic. And then the story unfolded and I followed it. It left the confines of the outline and created other paths that I had not seen. New characters walked into the pages, some tragic, some only for a moment, some for comedic relief. I saw that my word count could go as high as 8000 words in a day. I wasn’t even writing the whole day. Hubby would come home and we’d watch TV, as he likes to do after a day out and about.
The odd thing is that I found that nanowrimo is no sweat. Just write. Don’t edit (which is hard for me). Just go.
What I didn’t mention is that the first book I wrote thanks to a small group called the Shitty Writer’s Club. We would meet together monthly and our rule was that you just had to write that novel you had secretly been harboring. Just write it. It didn’t matter if it was awful. That was how Absolute Darkness was finally finished and self-published. I could not have had the guts to finish it without them.
Nanowrimo was the same for this second novel. I know that I was afraid to write another one. What if it was super awful? What if I only had one novel in me? What if it was flat? WHO CARES! Nanowrimo forces you to look at a number and just go. Go. Go. GO. GO. GO!!! I had more writing buddies now and I could see how far they were coming along and they were beating me to the finish line. I was not discouraged at all. I was so very happy for them! Before Thanksgiving I was sure I would not make it. I was sure that I could not complete 50,000 words. So I cheered them on. I wanted them to beat me to the finish line! Look at them go. Then, after Thanksgiving, I realized how much I could put down on paper and I thought maybe I could catch up.
Then yesterday, I completed the novel’s first draft. I wrote the whole thing. It only punched in at 40,000 words written in November though. (13,000 had been written in a previous nanowrimo) So, I started to write descriptions, back stories, this blog post about writing, anything to be honest that I have written 50,000 words in November. I am so excited to have finished the first draft of another novel and now I see that I can do it. What a boost that is. To know what you are capable of!
It is difficult for me, I must say. For I tend to want to re-read and re-read and re-read what I wrote so that I can catch the flow of words. But I can’t in NANOWRIMO. I have to just write forward and know that I’ll re-read later. Don’t know a word put in a REWRITEWORD place holder. Don’t stop to give names. Don’t remove words and rewrite sentences. (Very difficult for me.) Just go. Blurt out the words and the feelings and the places and the things and the characters. Blurt it all out in an alphabet vomit.
Once upon a time I worked with a company on “the creative process”. We did brainstorming and used time boxing (timed exercises) to get out our ideas. One of the main rules was “no nos.” In other words they would start a timer and you had five, fifteen or sometimes a glorious 20 minutes to get out your ideas as a group for the given task. That was it. It pushed everyone just to throw their ideas out there without fear of judging. They just threw them up onto the post it notes and then there would come a round table of logical discussion of what to keep, etc. I did a brainstorming lecture on how random thought and pushing past the normal blockers we put up (the no’s) keep us from getting to the real juicy creative ideas. Nanowrimo is like that for writing ideas. You have to open up everything and just go. It gets you past where you would normally stop because of your no barrier, or your time, or your worry, or your concerns, self-doubt.
So here we are about to go into December and many of us have our first draft. I can slow down now and attend to the other things in life, such as putting up holiday decorations and exercise, prepping my class lectures for January.
I look forward to rewriting this story and submitting it to my publisher as a part of the Darkness series. In that I am so humbled and thankful. You don’t need a publisher though. Self-publish. Get it out there. Do it not for money. DO it because you want at least one person to read your book and smile.
To the authors I have used as inspiration for Alexander, though I can not hold a candle to their writing, I can say that their writing inspired me greatly and helped me shape the world that Alexander lives in. I would not be honest if I didn’t first say Stephen King. I’m a child of the 80s and he and Erma Brombeck are the first authors I read. And then V.C. Andrews (when she was alive and wrote her own books) which might give you the total picture to my personality. I think the thing that sticks with me most about his books is how he can make walking down the stairs the scariest thing ever. (Salem’s Lot) And I call upon the memory of reading that passages a couple of times in the “When Darkness Begins”, I hope you’ll pick up on it.
The other author that I attribute my fascination with vampires to is Chelsea Quinn Yarboro. My sister-in-law had introduced me to her writing when I was eighteen or nineteen. (Yes, I married very young – you’d have to know me, I was old when I was 10.) I met Yarboro’s St. Germain who was the most intriguing vampire I had ever met. Her books were historical fiction set in multiple periods of time and that was huge to me. St. Germaine had to carry with him coffins of dirt from his home land. That dirt kept him sustained, he drew energy from it. I took that idea completely. It has stayed with me. During the last puking of 10,000 words for this nanowrimo I realized that I had not tried to kill the VECHY and in that I had needed to take one more thing from Yarboro and that is the concept of the True-Death which is to have their head severed from their spine. That’s nothing new now a days with the zombie-a-thons that go on. So I will put that in during the re-write. Thank you dear Chelsea Quinn Yarboro. Sadly, I never kept up with her books. I have never really followed any author at all – just read everything and occasionally something would stick in my head and stay on the shelf. Now, thanks to the internetz, I can go back and start to read the rather large stack of books that she has! Goodness. I wonder what St. Germaine has gotten himself into. Now, St. Germaine is impotent and I think that appealed to me as a teen. I kept Alexander and his kind as being potent and in fact they are populating the earth with VECHY. He is a lover but I don’t dwell into romance. I’m to embarrassed to write that way under an author name people recognize. But he loves, deeply, and that has been a constant theme throughout the books.
Do I think there will be a third book in the series? Perhaps. But I think I would like to go write a thriller. I have some great characters who have been waiting in the wings for a while and it is time to trot them out onto stage. They are a broken bunch, barely a redeeming quality in them. The mayhem and destruction they try to wield. I do think they need to see the light of print. And I’ll try to keep the paranormal down – but I can’t promise that, now can I?
This is the author’s life and I can’t imagine going a day without acknowledging that it is my life.
end of rambling post. No one actually read that whole thing, did they?