I Wrote A Novel! Now What?
Thursday, December 16, 2010 4:48 AM
When I met her at the end of October Linda Trenholm had a plot and a handful of characters. She was taking up the National Novel Writing Month challenge to write a novel during the month of November. Her basic plot was about a woman who wanted to give away her fortune so she joins a group of do-gooders, but finds out later that it is the relationship with her daughter that really matters.
Uncorrected excerpt from Lies with Love by Kayla Silvaria
I grabbed my bathrobe and threw it on as I ran down the stairs and out the door of my apartment. I ran down the stairs until I got to the last door. I threw open the door and ran outside. The cold stormy, Delaware, winter air hit me like a slap when the wind blew snow in my face. For a moment I thought that the blond boy already killed the other boy when I heard a humorless laugh and then someone was talking.
"You're a bloodsucker, why should I believe you?"
"Because I'm telling the truth, Shadowhunter."
I followed the sound of the voices silently. I leaned against the wall and looked over at the boys. The black hair boy was still on the ground, and the blond boy was still holding the knife.
"Why are you here, bloodsucker?"
"Because of the girl," replied the black hair boy.
"Ever Isabella Silverwand," the black hair boy sneered.
I was surprised to hear my name come out of his mouth except for the last name. Absentmindedly I took a step and I kicked a can that was lying in the street with my bare foot. The blond hair boy heard my step and spun around on his heels to stare at me, while the black hair boy must have known I was there because he smiled at me with narrowed eyes.
Trenholm was about to become a Wrimo.
Wrimo is short for NaNoWriMo, a sort of blend of the first letters of National Novel Writing Month.
On November 30, Wrimos upload their manuscripts on to the NaNoWriMo website and a word-counter speeds through and spits out the total word count. Those who reach 50,000 words get to print out a winner's certificate with their name on it, but nobody reads the novel.
"It's a good thing," said Linda. "Can you imagine? It's so incredibly bad."
The idea is to get creativity flowing, not create a masterpiece in a month.
Just after Thanksgiving, which she hosted, Trenholm had about 50 pages still to write and five days left to do it in. On November 30, she finished work, drove home, made a pot of coffee and pounded out the last 7,500 words, finishing with just 15 minutes to spare. She logged on to the website to upload her novel into the word-counter, but it had already closed.
"I was panicked when it wouldn't upload," said Trenholm.
"My nephew was there. He said you've got to call them, that's not right. E-mail them!" she said. They fiddled around for a few minutes and fixed the problem and Trenholm uploaded the novel with just seven minutes to spare.
National Novel Writing Month was started in 1999 by 21 people in San Francisco who decided to write a 175-page novel in one month. This November, over 200,000 people around the world participated, communicating through e-mail threads and charting their progress on bar graphs on the NaNoWriMo.org website. Many Wrimos met for weekly timed writing sessions or joined all-night write-a-thons, turning the usually solitary pursuit of writing into a group endeavor.
It's like a marathon of writing and a kick in the butt for those who have started a book but never finished one. I didn't reread any of my month of writing frenzy, or spell check, or check for punctuation. Who cares if it is drivel. You're writing, aren't you? And for a change, friends and family are going to want to know: how many words did you write today?
"Did you finish your novel," asked my buddy Sid, who works at the Camden dump. Then he tells me about a Wrimo I hadn't met. "He wrote a lot of it sitting in his deer stand," said Sid.
I had finished. I reached the deadline at 6:30 p.m. on November 30. My story was about how the languishing economy drives us to do things we wouldn't otherwise do, just to pay the mortgage. And that opens up a whole new adventure. There are holes in the plot big enough to drive a Lincoln Town Car through, but I'm a much faster typist than I was a month ago.
Kayla Silvaria, a sophomore at Mount View High School, also finished the challenge.
"My book is about a girl, Ever, who was abandoned by her parents when she was five years old. She thought they were dead until years later when she fell in love and there were complications and she found out her parents were still alive," said Silvaria, 15.
The plot gets complicated in a vampirish dark-of-the-night kind of way. Silvaria took her real-life friends as starting points for many of her characters, and they knew it. She had a favorite red chair in the library where she wrote on her laptop while her friends read what she had already written.
"She had kind of a cult following," said Trenholm, who put up the posters about National Novel Writing Month at the high school. Trenholm is a technology instructor at Mount View.
"I want to be a writer one day," said Silvaria. "It's fun making up my own little world."
Silvaria doesn't plan to revise. Trenholm hasn't decided what she'll do with her novel draft and neither have I.
Sometime this month I'll read the beast and then decide if I want to commit a year to revision, because, let's face it, this was the roughest of rough drafts. Nobody, except maybe Jack Kerouac, has written a novel in a month that was worth publishing.
The bigger lesson for me was not that I could crank out a 175-page draft - I am a professional writer, after all - but how letting all that creativity flow in the month of November made if feel like the month of June, bright and blooming, blackflies and all.