Previously on My Writing Journey: after one failed Nanowrimo and an unexpected conversation with an incredibly enthusiastic English major, I accidentally discovered a plot for my first novel …
The idea niggled at my mind over the next few weeks. At one point, I was even inspired enough to try and write an introductory scene – which was probably the worst thing I’ve written to date and had nothing to do with the original story concept. (It was a very horrible attempt at a prologue explaining the conflict between my two races – I stuffed it into the bowels of my PC to resurrect if I ever decide to get around to writing a prequel.) However, I wasn’t inspired enough to really take the story anywhere. Instead, the idea just sort of festered in the back of my head.
Which, coincidentally, is how most of my brilliant breakthroughs develop. By festering in my subconscious. At least, I think they’re brilliant.
Mid-September we had a little cold snap. (Yes, this is relevant – bear with me.) One night, I had one of the most vivid and weird dreams I’ve ever experienced, right up there with the nightmare about velociraptors hunting me and my family after the apocalypse while I laughed at the absurdity of it all. (I fully intend to write that story someday. If there’s not a satirical horror genre, there will be when I’m done.)
Anyway, in this dream I was the main character from my story (who I believe I called Lyra at the time) as she tried to swim across an icy river. As she (I?) struggled against the freezing temperature and the relentless current, a litany of ‘gotta run, gotta get away, he’s coming!’ ran through, uh, our head. (I told you it was weird.) As she/I reached shore and started to stumble out of the water, we were suddenly swept up by a pair of strong (studly) arms and scolded by a deep, rumbling voice. “You scared the Spirits out of me! What were you thinking, swimming across a frozen river?”
She/I looked up, teary-eyed, and asked in disbelief, “Sebastian? You’re alive?”
This, unfortunately, is when I woke up and realized I had kicked all my blankets off in the night – which, with my room sitting at the same ambient temperature of a walk-in freezer, is probably what sparked the setting of my dream.
Note: I had no idea who Sebastian was, or why he was supposed to be dead. I did, however, feel the sense of disbelief that he was alive – which was weird. I also didn’t know who the ‘he’ was chasing me – though I assumed it wasn’t Sebastian. This is why I felt like screaming in frustration when I woke up – I wanted to know what the heck was going on in my head!
Almost as if fate designed it, a few days after my crazy dream – after which, of course, I added a Sebastian to the story idea – I got an email from Nanowrimo.org reminding me to start preparing for National Novel Writing Month. Up until that point, I had successfully managed to forget it even existed. (Am I the queen of procrastination, or what?)
Newly inspired by my world-building dream, I decided to try Nano again. After all, this time I had a vague idea of what I wanted to write. Shoot, I even had a fully formed scene – though I had no idea what it meant or where it would go.
This time, I took the time to read some of the pep talks and prep resources on the Nanowrimo website. When I read that a support network was critical for success, I told my husband, my parents, my coworkers – and my World of Warcraft guild. After all, I’m honest enough to admit that I could easily see myself logging on ‘for a few minutes’ and playing away my writing time. I figured if my guild-mates knew that I was supposed to be writing, then I might get one or two of them to pester me every time I procrastinated.
This ended up being the smartest decision I’ve made in my entire life – and not for reasons I predicted. You see, the guild-mate from before – Murph – took it as a personal challenge. Not only did he ask me how much I’d written every time I logged into the game, but he genuinely wanted to know what I’d written. I’ll go into that in a minute.
November arrived. I started the month with three characters: Kisara (previously known as Lyra), Sebastian (my mysterious dream stranger) and Lucien (the elusive ‘he’ from aforementioned dream), and the vague idea I’d whipped up on the fly.
That first day, I sat down at my keyboard – and had no idea how to start. Obviously, I had to introduce the main character, but how? I couldn’t just say: “This is Kisara. She’s thirteen, and about to experience the biggest day of her life.” Well, I could if I wanted it to sound like a corny biography, but that wasn’t the mood I wanted for my book.
Several hours later – and I do mean hours – I finally settled with the idea that Kisara just received her outfit for the special ceremony that evening, and she sets out to meet her best friend Lucien. (Ah ha! So that’s his relationship to her …)
The next few days progressed in much the same way. I’d sit at the computer screen and agonize over what to write next. I’d check my word count two, three, four times – gritting my teeth and pushing a little further until I hit that elusive goal for the day. I never resorted to typing gibberish to get to that goal – but good lord, I thought about it once or twice.
I’m not going to lie – at this stage I hated writing. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t enjoyable. With the exception of the first day, I couldn’t summon any excitement over finally taking the first steps to writing a novel. Oh, I still wanted to be an author. I even liked the basic idea for my story. But the actual physical part of writing? No, thank you. It didn’t help that I suddenly had the urge to do anything except write: not only did World of Warcraft beckon, but out of nowhere I found myself wanting to read books (other than my own), or watch TV, or even clean my house (which, you can ask my husband, I never want to do). I later discovered that the urge to procrastinate is a normal reaction that authors have to battle – at least, I’ve seen quite a few other authors talk about how easy it is to let little things interfere with writing.
To be continued on November 21st…