By Kristy McCaffrey
Last month was National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. During November, writers from around the world try to write a 50,000-word novel. I signed up to punch out a first draft of my next Wings of the West book, The Canary, and I’m happy to report that I made it to 50k. Is the manuscript readable? Well, kinda ….
This is the fourth time I’ve participated in NaNo, and after much revising I’m happy to say the previous three projects all went to publication (The Blackbird, Deep Blue, and The Starling). The Canary will also need some work, but I’m pleased with what I have.
For previous NaNo’s, my goal was to get to some version of the end of the story, because it often helps to know the ending in order to fine-tune the beginning. This means skipping interior scenes, since my books usually fall between 75-85k.
For this NaNo, however, I changed my method. When I hit 40k, I realized I didn’t like my first chapter. I was working with a fake marriage trope between the main characters, Sarah Ryan and paleontologist Dr. Jack Brenner, but the initial setup left me feeling lackluster. In the first one, Sarah pretends to be married to Jack because she’s run into one of her professors who’s been harassing her, and she’s frightened to be in the Arizona desert with this man. But as I kept writing this premise, I felt it weakened Sarah’s character.
So, for the last 10k of NaNo, I rewrote the first five chapters from scratch, using a different approach to get Sarah and Jack “hitched,” and I like this one much better. I’ll have to tear apart the rest of what I have and repurpose it, but this is how I generally work anyway.
I have a few other projects I must return to, so I’ll start revising The Canary in February. This will allow me time to do more research, which is challenging when trying to write 2,000 words every day. (If you write each day of November during NaNo, you only need 1667 words, but I overwrote so that I could take time off around Thanksgiving).
I will say, though, that the more I read about the dinosaur fossils in the Painted Desert in the late 1800’s, the more intrigued I become.
I’m very excited for this book, and I hope the readers will love it too.
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Happy Holidays to you and yours!