However, in recent years, there’s been a trend: more and more people are trying to finish their works in progress during NaNo – and that is exactly what I’m attempting to do this month! All yesterday, I read through my novel (now tentatively titled The Hundreds) and cut anything and everything that wasn’t jiving with the plot. The result: I have a solid 43,449 word base for NaNo, and I’m looking to build a polished first draft of around 70,000 words.
I am strong! I am fearless! Let’s do this thing!
It’s amazing how new characters can pop up and surprise you. The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind journey for my second novel. I realized as I was reading through a very early draft that something wasn’t working, and then it hit me.
My love interest. My cute, soccer-playing boy from North Carolina. He wasn’t right for the book.
Of course I went through a slightly convoluted process of trying to convince myself that he was right, that it was this-draft-sucks anxiety speaking, but eventually I had to face the fact: his character needed to go. So I completely scrapped him, wiped my document clean of his name. Cue additional anxiety: What happens now? Where do I go from here?
You know that old saying: when God closes a door, he opens a window? Well, this wasn’t anything that divine, but it did stun me to find that the very next day, a new character knocked on that figurative window and asked to come inside.
And we are totally clicking. I like him a whole lot.
My point is that no matter how far you are into the drafting process, it’s okay to make a dramatic change. It’s okay to discover something new.
Diary entry #3
While drafting If Birds Fly Back, I didn’t use Pinterest at all, but for book 2, I find myself gravitating towards it more and more. Book 2 is so very much influenced by setting that I thought I’d give Pinterest a serious try. And I love it! For me, it really helps with atmosphere – a reminder that this is the feeling of the book.
What about you all? Do you find Pinterest helpful while drafting?
Diary entry #2
Creating a book (a whole big book with words and pages, oh my!) is rather intimidating. It doesn’t matter if you’ve written a complete book before; what I’ve learned is that the second time is just as nerve-wracking – possibly even more so.
A few people have asked me recently about my writing process, so I thought that I’d give a quick run-down about how book 2 is shaping up, and how I get from point A to point B. This process seems to work for me, but I cannot stress enough that every writer is different.
Step 1 [1 week]: A shred of an idea pops into my head. For book 2, it started with the setting – and immediately I knew that I wanted to write a book in that place. I quickly threw together some vague character outlines (names of characters, ages, circumstance) and sent a one-paragraph pitch to my editors. They liked it! Huzzah!
Step 2 [2 months]: Read. A lot. I mean, A LOT. In this stage, I’ll devour about 3 to 4 books a week and take copious notes about what’s working. For me, reading is the best way to stir up my imagination.
Step 3 [2 months]: Amass a ton of random sentences/occasional paragraphs. I write things that I think sound pretty and which relate (or may not relate) to my plot. Okay, I know that sounds super strange, but for me, it just helps to see words on paper. It helps to know that I’m possibly getting somewhere. Book 2 had 20k words before I really knew what the story was about.
Step 4 [1 month]: Begin to coalesce random sentences/paragraphs into some sort of structure. Build upon them. Cut out what doesn’t relate to the plot at all. Read more. Take more notes.
Step 5 [1 month]: Create an outline based on everything I’ve amassed. For me, this also has to do with setting.
Step 8 [2 months]: Cut, cut, cut, re-write. Most of what I’ve written will be kind of crap, and I need to make it better.
Step 9 [3 weeks]: Send it out to critique partners.
Step 10 [3 weeks]: Read. Become startled and confused by feedback, but then realize it makes sense.
Step 11 [3 weeks]: Send to my agent.
Step 12 [3 weeks]: Read. Take in feedback.
Step 13: Send to my editors!
And again, it’s different for everyone, but I hope this may help one or two people. My best advice is just to trust your gut: you know what’s working in your process. Stick with that.
Diary entry #1
Ah, the fearsome Book 2—striking panic in authors since the beginning of time.
This may be the first of many Book 2 posts… or not. I haven’t quite decided yet, but I knew that I needed to get some thoughts on paper (or on the Internet, in this case).
Even before I got my book deal, I was nervous about my second novel. From what I’d heard, second books are notoriously difficult, because although you’re still a new writer, there are all of these added expectations and questions. What if my second book doesn’t live up to my first? Is it too similar to my first? What if it isn’t better than my first? WHAT ABOUT MY BRAND???
With this looming over my head, I was afraid that I’d sit down at my computer and nothing would come out.
That didn’t happen. Quite the opposite, actually. I had 50,000 words before my editors even knew I’d started, and for a few months I genuinely thought that I’d beaten the Book 2 Blues. How happy I was! How triumphant!
But then I re-read what I’d written, and… most of it just wasn’t right. Something was missing. And after thinking about it for a few weeks, here’s what I discovered about myself:
I don’t like writing sad books.
If Birds Fly Back has a lot of sad elements, yes, but overall it’s pretty sunshine-y. Book 2 was drenched in sadness—sadness on every page. Without giving away too much of the plot, my second novel focuses on a death that greatly impacts three siblings, and until I started writing it, I had no idea how hard it would be to write about grief without steeping the narrative in sadness. If the main character isn’t upset all the time, does that make her insensitive? Can she crack jokes about the dead character without looking like a psychopath? As an author, exactly how much laughter can I incorporate before readers start to think that I don’t understand death at all? Etc.
These are the questions that keep me up at night—and pick at me every time I put pen to paper—because I’m desperate to strike the right balance. The Fault in Our Stars did it perfectly… but John Green is a wizard. Oh, John Green, please teach me your uplifting ways!
So that’s where I am right now, 7-8 months before my book is due to my agent, and about a year before my first book hits shelves. I’m trying to remind myself that writing a good book takes time—Rome wasn’t built in a day, yada yada yada. And it’s getting there.
It’s getting there.