Category Archives: NaNoWriMo

The Reinvention of a Character

It’s been a week since my last NaNoWriMo update, and there’s still so much work to do on the novel. Maybe I’ll have the draft done by the beginning of the new year? Maybe I should make that an official goal.

As I continue to work on it — albeit on a much slower pace — I continue to process the things that have happened and how they connect and will shape the things to come. (Well, the ones I know will come. Being a pantser means that I don’t have that many details figured out yet.)

There is one thing I’d love to talk about, but I haven’t figured out how to discuss it without major spoilers. It feels especially wrong to spoil a story that not only isn’t published but also isn’t even complete yet.

So instead, let’s go back to the summer of 2016. I was working on the novel back then but was running into a major road block. The characters were starting to go silent on me. They were lethargic and uninterested in the story, so I took a couple of months off to let them brew more before giving them a fresh start in November.

While all of the characters had fallen into a rut, it was really a duo of minor characters who were the worst. They were cousins, and they started off all right, but they had become indistinguishable from one another and completely flat. It was pathetic.

Whenever this happens, there’s always a huge question about what to do. Do the characters stay but go through some personality therapy or does that part of the story just need reinvented?

I ended up opting for reinventing. To do that, there were a few things that I needed to assess:

  • Why do these characters need to be in the story?
  • What role(s) are they filling?
  • Is there another way to do this?

The answer to the first and second was that I needed at least one more person on the spaceship to handle the engines and air systems, so that meant the character couldn’t be completely eliminated. There’s more to it, but that was really the most important part.

The third question opened up some possibilities. Instead of being two cousins, what if it was just one character instead? There’s something about the dynamic of two people who know each other well, but that wasn’t cutting it. So I decided to trim down to one character and make him more dynamic by himself.

So far, that seems to be the right choice. Of course, who knows what will happen in the next draft?

What do you do when your characters fall into a rut? Have you combined/completely replaced characters in a story?


Mean Writers

Earlier this week, I finished NaNoWriMo. In my last post, I alluded to some of the experiences that came with this draft. Really, I was thinking of one in particular that affected me more deeply than I was expecting.

I have a tendency to become very emotionally invested in characters. While this isn’t limited to my own characters by any means, there’s a special connection with them. So whenever they go through hard times, it gets to me. I do it because it’s necessary for a good story, but, especially in the first draft, it’s not an easy thing to do.

Though this is the first time I’ve met the protagonist of the side story that took up 30,000 words of my novel, I have a deep connection with her. Unlike most of my other characters, she started as a picture that I found on Pinterest. A redheaded teenager with a spritely smile and just the right clothes. I’ve spent a couple of years wondering who she was and how she tied in. Then when the idea for the side story came about, I knew it was her.

She’s young and her world starts off fine, but it doesn’t stay that way for long. Things get dark. There’s a strange mixture of fear and pleasure that comes with that. Pleasure because the story falls together and creates the tension that makes a story great. But fear because it’s never easy to watch characters suffer the way that they have to in a great story. Especially when you care about them.

As with any story, it became darker and more difficult as time went on. But when it hit its worst point, I found myself reacting differently than I normally do. I felt truly awful. I felt like a terrible human being for what I just put her through. For the way I destroyed her life. I wrote the worst of it in one sitting, before school, and after leaving the computer, I couldn’t shake the heaviness in my chest.

I couldn’t shake it for most of the day. At school, I told my mom and my story-loving students. Anyone who I thought would appreciate the feelings I was going through. Part of me didn’t understand why this affected me so much, but part of me did. I’d written some pretty terrible things before, but I always knew how it would be okay, so I could console myself with that. Yes, the character is suffering now, but I already know the victory that’s about to come.

Her story didn’t have that. I can’t say more without spoilers, but suffice to say, the story ended more as a defeat. I know that’s how reality is sometimes, but that’s not normally what I write. Or even what I typically read. Usually, there is a bright side, a redemption, a victory. Life is hard and sad enough sometimes, and I like to use fiction as an escape and an encouragement.

It was an eye-opening experience to be sure. It will be interesting to see how I feel on the next draft, now that I know how her story ultimately ends.

Have you ever done something to characters that emotionally affected you? What kinds of endings do you prefer?


NaNoWriMo Week 4 Update

Current Day: 29
Word Count: 50,760
Par: 48,333

nanowrimo_2016_webbanner_winner_congrats

I might be a day late posting, but I’m right on time with NaNoWriMo. I crossed the line late on Sunday night.

The Result

After a month of reimaging and hours of typing, I’m happy with where this novel is headed. Much to my surprise, it’s not done yet.

All of the other novels I’ve written so far have hovered just over 50,000 words. So far, that’s all the longer anything has needed to be. This one, though, is different. I think it still has another 20,000 words waiting to happen. Maybe even more. Only time will tell.

More on some of the experiences that have come with this story tomorrow.

How have you been doing with your goals?


NaNoWriMo Week 2 Update

Current Day: 13
Word Count: 21,631
Par: 21,666

While I haven’t written yet today, I’m right on track this week. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in about an hour and a half, when you can find it.

This week has gone well. The characters are cooperative. Not just cooperative. They’ve exceeded my expectations. I was going to be happy if the first part of the story — the first character’s point of view — made 20,000 words. While it is an important part of the story, I never expected it to be very long.

Forget that. Not only does it look like it’ll be a solid 30,000 words, but it also has more twists than I anticipated. I hope my protagonist and her posse are ready to up their game when their turn comes, because these last 21,631 words are more interesting than the first draft of her story. And I’m not even to the best part yet.

I know that the ending word count from last night seems strange. I was only 35 words shy of par. Why stop then? Frankly, the scene I was writing was over. The characters didn’t want another 30 words. So it seemed better to save them for a new day and a new scene. It’s better not to argue too much with characters during NaNoWriMo. I’ve learned that the hard way.

So two weeks down, a little over two more to go. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

How is your writing progress going?


NaNoWriMo Week 1 Update

Current word count: 8,030
Day 6 Par: 10,000

I’m starting Day 7 a little behind. On Day 1, I was feeling excited and knew exactly where the story was headed, so I was able to rush through 3,000 some words. It felt great. However, the rest of the week turned out much busier than I originally anticipated. A couple days without much writing makes an impact pretty fast, so the weekend started off pretty low. Okay, a little embarrassingly considering how close to the beginning it is. However, with some progress over the weekend and the anticipation of a little extra time after work today, I think I’ll catch up pretty quick.

So far, writing from the perspective of one character at a time seems like a good idea. The current section of the story is uncharted territory. I’ve written the story of the protagonist once (thanks to another NaNoWriMo), but this side character’s experience is completely new. I know where her story ends up and some details along the way, but I’m starting to reach the place in the rough outline where I don’t know exactly how it all falls together or how quickly to move. After all, it’s not like her story has to be 50,000 words (which is good, because right now I don’t have 50,000 words worth of story to tell), but it needs to be a good chunk. After all, it is very important to the protagonist’s story so it deserves some exploring.

I guess we’ll see what happens this week. Now, back to work (so then I can get back to writing)!

How has is your NaNoWriMo progress going?


T-Minus 17 Hours and Counting…

NaNoWriMo is almost here! Last week, I worked hard to prepare everything for school and this blog. Today, I think I’m as ready to go as I can be. After two years off, I feel a little rusty, but I’m looking forward to the new adventure.

One of the interesting quandaries that I had to work through last week was a potential plot hole.

While I typically am very private about writing (in fact, hardly any friends or family even know about this blog), I’m very open with my husband about it. He’s been, essentially, my writing partner for at least 15 years. He doesn’t have the patience to write, but he loves to create stories too. And it works out beautifully because it’s like his mind contains the other half of my own imagination. I come up with ideas (with the occasional exception) and do the bulk of the work, but when I invite him in, it feels like sharing the idea with myself. He’s always on the same wavelength. He always understands where I’m trying to go. And he is more detail-oriented, so he can find those tiny things I know I’m missing but can’t figure out alone.

He’s also my best solution for plot holes.

Right now, one of the stories is based around a machine that’s supposed to fix a broken element, to put it very simply. In the first round of the novel (which was more of a brainstorming session in story form than a true draft), I didn’t really worry about what the fictional element was or how it worked, even though it was a big deal in the story. However, understanding the element, what originally happened to it, and how to fix it is paramount to writing a solid draft since a whole storyline relies quite heavily on it. It’s even fair to say that there wouldn’t be a story at all without it.

While I am interested in science, I wasn’t quite sure what to do, so I called him in. It took a few days, but we eventually figured it out together. And as we did, some new layers developed as well, so the story will be better for it in several ways. Talk about a win-win.

So, with that, I think everything is as ready as it can be for tomorrow. I guess we’ll see how it goes from here.

Also, as a side note, I’ll plan to post NaNoWriMo updates on Mondays, to be prepared for that in addition to the regularly scheduled blog posts.

What do you do when you run into plot holes? Do you have a go-to method to fix them?


The NaNoWriMo Warm-up Round

NaNoWriMo starts in 9 days.

I’ve been looking forward to saying that after two years off. It’s like counting down the days to Christmas or a vacation. There’s so much anticipation and excitement as I check the days off and figure out what I need to do next to prepare.

Every year, the preparation list looks a little different. Here are the main things I have to do next week to ensure I’m ready for this adventure:

  • Make sure I have a good supply of tea. (I feel like one of Pavlov’s dogs with tea… a cup means it’s time for the creativity to get on the move.)
  • Gather up some chocolate for the occasional treat while writing (or in case the story takes a turn for the worse and I need some encouragement).
  • Get ahead with the French lesson plans.
  • Plan a time each day to write. (It’s more of a guideline than an actual rule.)
  • Write blog posts like crazy.

I do plan on coming by often to read others’ posts, respond to comments, and post about my progress, but it’s hard to do sprints through a novel and try to think of other things to write about at the same time sometimes. So I’m going to try to be smart this year and work ahead. It’ll give my novel a little more time to brew while I wait for November 1 to come around.

One advantage of teaching high school French instead of middle school English this year is that I don’t have to worry about a pile of short stories/essays coming in during the middle of NaNoWriMo. That’s been an inevitability since the first year I participated, and it feels weird that I don’t have to expect that.

With that, guess it’s time to get to work!

What kind of preparations do you do for NaNoWriMo or other big writing projects? Or do you always move steadily through your works so you don’t have to prep like this?