Thursday, December 1, 2011

That Warm Glowing Sense of Accomplishment

Hey, it's December? Yay! Look who's back! Hey guys! I missed you! Thank you for putting up with my foolishness over this past month. Believe me when I say, it was totally worth it.

Why is that?

Because I finished my novel! I finished my novel a whole day and a half early! I beat my 2010 word count by about 13,000 words too! My finished novel, Choices, weighs in at 88,044 words in fourteen chapters. What's more, I am actually amazingly satisfied with this story.

You may be wondering why I am so amazed at that fact, but the simple truth is, I really didn't think I was going to have it in me this year. I hemmed and hawed about what story to write, as some of you certainly may remember from previous posts. Initially, I thought I would do a massive Stargate fanfic crossing over all three television series. But I could never figure out how to get all of those characters in the same place. So then I moved on to doing a semi-fanfic, a story set in the Dragon Age universe but featuring original characters and only loosely involving the events of the game.

By October I had scrapped those ideas and decided to go with a story from my file of stashed story ideas--snippets that I wrote from random inspiration or outlines of a story that I put down on the page for later when it popped into my head. I had settled on a story and began doing the pre-November legwork. I named my characters, I wrote an outline, I drew a map. I played nations tetris with said map on more than one occasion. Toward the end of the month I started to get a bit frustrated because I had realized that the catalyst event for the story, the whole reason the characters had to do what they did in the way they did it, hung on a really flimsy plot device. I knew it needed to be reworked, but I couldn't really come up with a viable answer. Without that, there wasn't a story. At least, not the story I had thought I wanted to tell. In addition, I realized that this story would require me to write about wars between nations and several large-scale battles involving swords, archery, horses, and magic. That meant making a magic system. That meant doing a lot of research to write battle scenes I would be satisfied with. I realized I really didn't have it in me. It just wasn't there, not this year.

With a few days left before November began, I threw it all out. I kept the principal characters but I took them out of this huge sprawling fantasy set and put them instead into a very small setting. One city-state, inspired by the the era of Jane Austen, but not existing anywhere in our world. I removed the conflicts regarding the fates of nations from the table and replaced them with smaller, personal conflicts. No magic, no dragons, not even any swords (though, yes, there were horses). I drew a map, I wrote a loose story-guide, not an actual outline, just the series of big events I wanted to touch in my main character's tale. I decided to do something I never do, which is to write the story from first-person perspective.

I have to confess. When November first dawned, I didn't have very much faith in this story. I hadn't put nearly enough thought into it. I didn't know if I would be able to get a whole story out of it, let alone 50,000 words. Yet as soon as I sat down and started writing (and then pulled up a new page and wrote down a few sentences describing what should happen in each chapter so I had at least a little bit of a road map), a wonderful thing happened. The words and the story just started to flow. By about 20,000 words my characters had started taking over and were telling the story for me. Yes, I hit most of the main points I wanted to, but a lot of the other stuff surprised me. Someone I thought was essentially a good guy but who didn't really get along with the protagonist turned out to really actually be scum. Another person I thought would be a mild antagonist turned into my protagonist's best friend, as much to my surprise as to hers.

It's not a fantasy. It's not a big, sweeping epic. If anything, it's a romance, though aside from the (totally accidental) sappy happy ending, I don't know how much it really qualifies as that either. What this is in the end, is the story of a young woman who was content to let other make her choices for her, until she finally received a wake up call and decided to take control of her own damn life. It's not that simple for her, of course, when is it ever? The world she lives in doesn't really think women need to make that many of their own choices. She never really thought twice about that, until she did. So this is the story about how she figured out how to take control where she could and to make peace where she couldn't.

I still don't know if it's any good or not. But it doesn't matter. Because as unsure as I was about this story when it started? Now? Now, I love it. It is one of my favorite things I have ever written. It's not perfect. There are definite issues with the pacing. I know there are plot lines I started to develop and let fall by the wayside as the story progressed. It will need to be cleaned up. I hope to share it with you, in the new year. I won't promise to do so, because, well, there's always the chance that I'll pull it out in January, reread it, and realize I hate it. But if I don't, then I want to post it here, a chapter a week, for you to read if you'd like.

Even if it never sees the light of day again, it's still my novel. I'm still incredibly proud of it. Thank you, NaNoWriMo, for giving me the opportunity to write it. I can honestly say this story wouldn't have happened without you. I can't wait to see what we get up to together next year!

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