Friday, January 27, 2012

My private NaNoWriMo

If you aren’t sure what NaNoWriMo is, don’t fret. I hadn’t heard about it until after my first book was published. It is short for National Novel Writing Month. It “officially” takes place in November. The goal is fairly straight forward: during that month, writers write as much of a novel as they can. What’s a standard word count people are shooting for? The number I’ve heard is 50,000.

But how many pages is 50,000 words? Honestly, it depends on a lot of things: the size of the font (letter size) the size of the paper, how big the margins are and such.

For example, The Hidden Sun is just shy of 100,000 words. That equates to roughly 350 pages in a standard format.

Personally, I applaud the idea behind NaNoWriMo, if not necessarily the execution.

Let me explain.

When I talk to aspiring authors, often they ask me for advice. The best advice I was given and therefore I pass on is to write the book whole—don’t keep rewriting the first chapter—with the understanding you will be going back to fix and change things when you are done. Too many people get started, and then quit after a chapter or two because they keep tweaking what they’ve written. To this end, NaNoWriMo is a great reason for people to write the book they’ve always wanted to.

So again, that is the idea behind NaNoWriMo, at least in my opinion. However, I don’t believe people should wait for November. Yes, there are those who need a kick in the pants and the support of other writers to make the goal. For others, it’s completely different.

For me, my writing comes in spurts. At this point of my writing career, I’m usually writing one book while editing another. I know of authors who write several books at the same time. I’m not that talented. I have to give my full attention to writing one book at a time.

The Hidden Sun took me five years to write. Why? Mainly because it was my first book and I was working full time, had four little daughters and spent a lot of time donating time for my church.

While editing The Hidden Sun, I got an idea for a second book. It took me three years to write The Waxing Moon, (it ended up just a bit more that 100,000 words) but I was writing it while editing The Hidden Sun.

While editing The Waxing Moon, I started working on the third book, The Zealous Star. However, after only a few chapters, I got an idea of writing a book based on a song called The Mirror of the Soul by Chris de Burgh. Though I wanted to finish The Zealous Star, I couldn’t stop thinking about The Mirror of the Soul. So, once I got permission from Chris de Burgh and his management to write the book, I put The Zealous Star on the back burner. Nine months later, I finished the book, the whole time still editing The Waxing Moon. The Mirror of the Soul is only 60,000 words, but that’s how long it took me to tell the story.

By this time The Waxing Moon was completed and while editing The Mirror of the Soul, I went back to writing The Zealous Star. After roughly 30,000 words into the book, I got inspired to write another book—something completely different from what I’d written before. Once again, the urge to write the new book was too strong, so The Zealous Star went back on the shelf while I started writing.

In one month’s time, I’ve written over 57,000 words for this new book. I’ve pondered on why it’s come so quickly and I’ve decided on a few things.

First, because I’ve written three full books before this one. I’ve gotten better and quicker.

Second, this book is told in first person, unlike the rest of my books. The other three books I’ve written are told from different points of view with separate plots intersecting and coming together at the end. It’s a fairly complex process. Writing a book from a single point of view has helped things move right along.

Third, while this yet-to-be-titled book is a novel, it is based on events in my personal life of when I lived in Mexico and some pretty darn traumatic things happened to me. Because of that, I already know the events and characters pretty well.

How does all this relate to NaNoWriMo? Well, I write when story in me demands to be told. It doesn’t wait for November.

However, I may just have to use NaNoWriMo this year to get me to finish The Zealous Star. That poor book keeps getting set aside.

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