If you've read this blog before, it probably is no surprise that I love the book and movie Wonderboys. And, in the chaos that is 2020, I often feel like Grady--unfocused, wearing my security blanket (in my case, the recent pair of elephant pants that I bought on a deep sale, rather than my ex's chenille bathrobe), and at a loss for editing my story down to just what matters.
September is where I try to turn that around.
When I left teaching, I settled into a pretty comfortable book a year from start to finish pace, with some wiggle room in there. This year, though, I am still slogging at (or not, really) the old manuscript draft for a book tentatively titled Long Weekend. This is just a working title and I am starting to kind of hate it. I never really liked it, but I tend to like having a placeholder.
I started this draft a couple of NanoWriMos ago--after Elegant Freefall was finished. The initial motivation for this book was Andi's character in EFF. After all, she's a pretty cool person who obviously has gone through a lot. She's a widow, she's a former academic, and she's a bar and bookstore owner who has her life in order. I wanted to explore her messy backstory. And for two years of NanoWriMo, this book was my project. I also failed to get more than about 10K in during Nano 2018 and 2019. Last year, I gave myself a bit of a break, as I did get Homecoming finished and out in time for the mid-November release.
And, that's where the book has been for the last ten months. Just sitting in a folder that I open now and again and resolve to work on. I always get a few days in and then get distracted by a pandemic, by starting to run again, by the fact the house isn't torn up, by the dogs barking (at everything). But, I think about the characters a lot, and I keep trying to get unstuck.
And, so, I started reading Save the Cat Writes a Novel. There's lots of great things in the book, and I created a handy Scrivener template for myself that follows the beatsheet (you can get your own beatsheet here). And, reading that book and creating a template made me realize some of the reasons I'm stuck.
So, now the "ensemble" novel is turning into a more central character-focused book but there will be plenty of interaction with the other characters. And, Andi isn't that protagonist, so that meant I had to go through a bit of a mourning process because while we learn about her backstory, she is yet again a supporting character. Which is ok, but certainly not what I expected.
You would think I would have learned by now that often the characters who are the most compelling are the ones we never planned for. After all Wren in the Olivia Chronicles wasn't supposed to survive book 1, Blood Sisters. But she's still going strong in book 3.
Another big step toward getting unstuck--accountability. Thankfully, Angela James offered a 30 Day Accountability Challenge for September and I have some specific goals. I'm working toward an average of 1K words a day in hopes of finally getting the whole story down, imperfect as it will be, by the end of the month. Hopefully between the roadmap of my beatsheet and the accountability to my group members I can make some headway.
And, today, I hit my word goal already. And, during the morning jog, I added a song to my book playlist and the stage of character set up I'm at this week.
After all, I already promised my NanoWriMo accountability partner that I would start something new in a couple of months, so I better get focused.