Today is the beginning of NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month is not a program suited for everyone but I owe them a mountain of gratitude for being the catalyst that pushed me to complete my first book. The idea swam around in my head for years but it was the combination of finding NaNoWriMo and my tomboy, sports induced, hyper-competitive neurosis that finally resulted in a finish first draft.
Since my first year I have attempted, and won, many times. I have had to back out one year as well due to personal obligations and health concerns. I have finished drafts of books while working two jobs, while dealing with family upheaval, and during normal uneventful months. This year I had planned not to participate. I am competing in 5K and 10K events, have two book signings, half a dozen friends and family members coming to visit, planning for my annual holiday party, oh yeah, and I work a full time job. After long and careful consideration, I knew it was best to sit it out this year.
Then a friend told me she was joining for the first time and looking for support. I am such a push over. It took less than five minutes to agree to jump in and help. Of course this is probably a reflection of my deep desire to be a part of the event regardless of the well thought out reasons not to do it this year. I think it is important to have a plan in place but sometimes we have to be willing to accept best laid plans aren't the way the universe rolls. I didn't even have to sit and brainstorm what project I would be writing. It was already there, front and center, waving its big annoying hands in my face.
I will be doing something different this year than in the past however. Several years ago I decided to take on the NaNoWriMo challenge but was already several days into November and had no projects in mind. I flipped through ideas I had jotted down and came up empty until I found a short story I had written and figured I could extend it into a full length novel. Much more difficult than I originally anticipated, by the way. I managed to get to about 38K words when I ran out of story and had to come up with another 12K to complete the challenge but, I admit, I was lost. I sat staring at my computer and the blank pages mocked me. Eventually I came up with ideas and was able to reach the 50K word mark but it was a struggle. I flailed and it showed.
When I sent the (very) rough draft to my editor and beta reader just to see what the feedback would be it was even worse than I expected. The point where I had to invent was so obvious I may as well have written it in a different color and font. I attempted a rewrite, then another, but it was clear every time I tried to fix the story there was still something missing. I would go through and just edit out or add things until I was temporarily satisfied. Every time I looked at it after though, I knew.
I went back to the original short story I had loved so much and finally saw what I had been missing the whole time. In the original story the main character is cynical and the story is a suspense. I have no idea how it became a fluffy romance story in the longer version but I truly believe that is why I felt disconnected from it. I don't write or read romance for the most part. The original version was so much better even though it was a mere 3400 words total. I knew I could fix it but I had to figure out how exactly to get back to the original. Then I finally found the catalyst I was missing, my playlist.
Every book I have successfully finished has had a dedicated playlist with songs that spoke to genre and character for that story. Breathe was missing that piece. I found the main song while out at a sporting event of all places and the rest of the list came together within a few days. Then, while sitting at work humming the songs, I was struck by the inspiration for how to fix the story. It is a complete rewrite and I am starting from scratch. It uses the same characters and the original short story but almost everything has changed and for the first time I am thrilled with its direction.
Breathe is becoming Escape and the revolution starts today. Time to kick off NaNoWriMo and get this next project in the books.