Monday, November 27, 2017

Deadly Light – Final Thoughts

I’m not sure if I’m going to attempt National Novel Writing Month again next year.

In 2014 my mind was in a bad place. I was struggling to deal with depression, and my team had just lost the World Series. Writing that November was an exercise in keeping my mind occupied on a task that yielded victories. So sort of like a video game only not as useless. In that context, the project was a relief.

This time around it was much harder. My depression isn’t as bad as it was (thank you therapy and antidepressants). But the month seemed to be full of other demands on my attention. While I was writing, I was constantly worried about something else that needed doing. And while I was taking care of other stuff, my mind would often be on the novel. It was uncomfortable at best and painful at worst. I’m not sure I’m up for another round of the same next year.

I’m also not sure I’ve got another novel-length plot going. My first victory – Deep Mist – was a combination of a plot I’d had in mind for some time, a story I’d written in screenplay form back when I was an undergrad, and a bracket. It didn’t write itself, but most of what went into it was already in my head.

The first part of Deadly Light was a story I’d already written twice before. I wrote it longhand back in my college days, and I typed a second version years later. Then I lost the file in a hard drive crash. When I finished Deep Mist and was all full of myself as a writer, I rewrote “The Spanking Machine” from a printed manuscript, making some changes along the way. The most significant change was the switch from first to third person, an alteration that made it much easier to carry the story on to parts two and three.

I got a small start on part two back in December 2014, but when January rolled around the effort petered out. It died at least in part because I had no idea what was going to happen in the second and third parts. I’d been reading a lot of advice from authors who insisted that advance plotting was fatal to good writing. Come up with characters and a setting, and then see what happens. I’m glad it works for them. It didn’t work for me at all.

This time I wrote the basic structure for the back two thirds of the book beforehand. Going in, I had some vague ideas about part two and not a clue in the world about part three. I spent a chunk of October telling myself the story, figuring out who does what, and organizing it all into an outline.

Tomorrow I’ll blog the outline so curious readers can see the difference between the plan and the final version.

Writing a story that wasn’t pre-written was a valuable experience. I was beginning to think I hadn’t had an original idea since my college days, and once I’d milked all my old stories for as much as they would yield, I would be done as a writer. So the new plot lines were encouraging, even if they were based on preexisting characters.

So another novel isn’t impossible. I just don’t have any idea at the moment about what it might be.

It also helped that the first half of the movie version of Stephen King’s It hit theaters not long before I started writing. Both stories are about the adventures of kids (and then later the same characters as adults) fighting a force of evil in a small town. Consciously avoiding as many parallels as I could helped push my tale in the right direction.

The other big challenge in 2018 is that Thanksgiving is on November 22, the earliest it can possibly fall. That’s not a deal-breaker. But it was nice on my first attempt to finish up before the holiday stuff got underway.

Time will tell.

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