I’m very excited primarily about the challenge of completing a novel in one month, particularly since I’ve written novels; the most recent took me two years to complete. Since I have 2 other full time jobs (mom & teacher), I usually write on weekends (when I have time), then go into full-on creative mode during the summer. I prefer editing as I go instead of pouring all of the words out to edit/revise later. My thoughts are always so far ahead of my fingers that I need to take intermittent breaks to allow them to catch up. I re-read, revise, and begin again. Usually, before I begin, I have a good sense of the main characters (I work out their sketches tediously) and a sketchy idea of where I want the story to go. Taking copious notes along the way, to keep track of the details to ensure their fluidity throughout.
Realizing that I’ll need to alter my process somewhat is part of the challenge. I’ve been tossing some ideas around in my head. Who I am kidding?? I’ve become obsessed with working out the main character, her “back” story and the architecture. If I am uber organized before it begins, I’m hoping that will allow my thoughts to flow without too many interruptions.
Once my main character takes on her own voice, usually after a chapter or so, she makes her own decisions. I’m not even exaggerating that. I think it’s true for every writer, but, I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong. At some point in the story, the main character(s) come alive for me and literally write their story (which is part of the allure of writing, for me, I think because sometimes the story doesn’t go where I had planned it to).
I’m thinking for this project, I want my story to be very character driven. I’m thinking sassy/ sarcastic, unlike the main characters in my other novels. I’m trying not to make this about the end product– I’m viewing this experience as an exercise in both character development and experimenting with style/voice that I don’t usually write.
So here are my goals:
1) create a strong, central character with depth and flaws, who is oddly charming. She needs to be familiar to me, but someone different than I’ve even written. The most important thing is to find her voice and allow her to blossom fully. I want to learn about this kind of person through the process.
2) work on the “story” in advance, so I’m not stopped wondering where to go. I want to remove any of the logistical obstacles that may arise, so I can just go with the flow.
3) focus on the process as an exercise instead of the project. The final result, in my head, needs to be nothing more than completing this challenge (one novel, one month, 50K words)
4) stay committed and focused. Write every day. Make time for writing; it’s the priority this month.
5) have fun being in the moment with the character without taking in any of the periphery.
So let me take you through my brainstorm, thus far.
Immediately after signing up, I go outside to my thinking place– by the pool & pond in our yard. I do my best thinking there. It’s a beautiful clear day, and I think Claire. It’s a pretty name, I have a student named Claire who reminded me how much I liked the name. Then I’m thinking teacher. I KNOW teachers. Claire is going to be a teacher. And English teacher of course, but not high school– that’s too close; I’d be too inclined to make it memoir(ish), and I don’t want it to be that. So, I’ve weeded out what I don’t want it to be. Hmm… a middle school teacher. I’ve can conceive of being any kind of teacher but a middle school teacher. That’s a different beast altogether. What if I write a story about all of my reasons for NOT wanting to be a middle school teacher? I can totally exaggerate the life of a middle school teacher while loosely drawing on my own experiences. Claire, the middle school, language arts teacher who is unhappy with her job. Hmm… what makes her unhappy with her job? She didn’t want to be a middle school teacher– she wanted to be a teacher of ideas (or, perhaps, deep down she didn’t want to be a teacher at all); instead, the is saddled with kids in the middle who are going through identity crisis’s. Okay, so, this Claire is going through an identity crisis of her own. HA! That parallels that of her kids, only she’s older. But not too old. Twenty-six. No boyfriend. No success with boyfriends. She’s desperately seeking a boyfriend (while all of her friends are thinking about marriage!) So what does a desperate, twenty-something woman do to find a boyfriend? LOOK! Everywhere. Cafes, gyms, blind dates, online. I will have Claire update her profile on matchmaker sites throughout the novel. Desperately seeking clarity… the title? She is seeking clarity to her life in her work and personal at the same time while she is teaching kids who are seeking clarity, too. Okay, the twist. I need a twist.
It takes me hours to find the twist. I’ve long since come back inside and go about the routine of my day. My husband tries talking to me and his words become muffled by my thoughts. I am literally obsessed with finding my twist. Facebook provides me with the answer I’m looking for as I come across a post with Shakespeare’s picture on it. A Play!!
Claire is tasked with running the school play. Against her will. So what would put her in this situation? Hmm… tenure. She’s earning tenure and she feels by turning it down, she’d ruin her chances at tenure, since she hasn’t been the best or most motivated or eager teacher– she’s backed into a corner. and, and, AND… the worst part is, she was a theater major who flunked out of theater in college. So, there will be demons to face there.
The last detail of the brainstorm came after talking with my son about college and his room mates, one of whom he described as a nerd who is so obsessed with the way he looks that he plays dress up at night, spends hours in the mirror, and irons his clothes (all of them, down to his skivvies) in the hallway. I need this character in my book. People think he’s gay, but he’s not. He’s the librarian, and Claire needs his help (although she is weirded-out by his very presence).
There it is… my brainstorm. Ahh… I can relax for a little bit. I have a story.