New Year, New Novel (and Good Riddance 2013)

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I did not “win” NaNoWriMo. Considering I have two children under the age of three, I was probably crazy for attempting it at all, but I managed to write almost 20,000 words in the first few weeks. After that the wheels came off. I was exhausted. I only had time to write in the evenings after both my kids fell asleep. The younger one doesn’t fall asleep for good until about 10:30 or 11. But exhaustion comes with the territory with young kids, and I’m a night owl. The real problem was something else: it hurt. Not physically (although I have a ganglion cyst in one wrist that has been causing me some problems lately), but emotionally it hurt. Instead of excitement and joy, it felt like fingernails on a chalkboard when I put hands to keyboard. I powered through it for 20,000 words until something in me snapped and said, “Nope. Not worth it.” Writing isn’t supposed to be fingernails on a chalkboard. I know authors joke that writing is painful.

“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed,” Hemingway famously quipped. “All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead,” joked Gene Fowler.

Okay, fine. There is some frustration in writing, but if you dread opening Scrivener and wish you had never told anyone you were writing a novel, that is more than frustration; that is despair. Despair resulted in me crying, throwing pieces of paper, and shelving the Mars novel indefinitely.

A few people (mostly relatives) are probably going to freak out and tell me I have to finish it because they want to read it someday. If you’re one of those people… sorry? But I’m not actually sorry because if I hate the story, chances are good you will hate it even more. I have lots of other good reasons to quit like stress, family obligations, and constraints on my time. If I really wanted to psychoanalyze the situation, I’d say the real problem is I’m not the same person I was when I started writing the story, and the novel no longer reflects my interests or maturity level.

All that to say I’ve decided to put my energy into another novel that has been simmering on the back burner. I’ve been struggling to come up with a simple way to summarize it. It started with a really bad nightmare that left me feeling like I wasn’t myself. If I had to categorize it, it would probably fall under adult paranormal, but it would blend in on the literary fiction shelf, too. It’s a weird little story, but I am confident in the concept, and I was never able to say that about my Mars book. It also works through some deep truths of scripture; it is, to quote Nate Wilson, “a catechism with flesh on.” I can’t wait to finish it and finally have something to give my beta readers.

So new year, new novel. What about the “good riddance 2013”?

Most of last year was painful, frightening, mournful, or infuriating. My beloved grandfather died on the same day I was told I was at risk for preterm labor with my second child. I consider it the worst day of my life so far. A few months later my husband stepped down from the church he had been pastoring for two years. In one fell swoop we were jobless and essentially homeless. That night I went into labor, but our son didn’t make his appearance until 25 1/2 grueling hours later. A few weeks later we moved out of the parsonage with our newborn and toddler and into my grandfather’s old house in my hometown. We are house-sitting until the military decides if they will pick up my husband for active duty chaplaincy or my parents are ready to sell their house. We have absolutely no idea where we will be living and working in this new year. 

Last year was like climbing K2. I pray 2014 is like skiing down a bunny slope. Happy New Year!

“Thank God for faith and bulk-ordered grace.”- N.D. Wilson, Death By Living

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Prepping for November

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Yes, it is almost NANOWRIMO! And I’m trying again.

After a lot of thought I’ve decided to completely start over on my Mars novel and use NaNoWriMo as my motivation to finally finish a complete draft. This means throwing away approximately 40k-50k words and four years worth of work. I feel a little insane doing it, but I believe it is necessary. Sure, it’s 40,000 words, but the story is in pieces. The plot is impossible to follow, and I’ve run down a thousand rabbit trails that lead nowhere. I need a fresh start, and I feel like this is the best way to do that. I can always go back and add in some of my old work if I want to (after November).

To ensure I actually finish the story in 50,000 words (as required by NaNoWriMo), I am setting up a new file in Scrivener with a complete outline of the plot and some inspirational pictures.  I’ve also given myself a rule: Write the book straight through from beginning to end. I have a bad habit of avoiding scenes I don’t know how to write by skipping to the next chapter. That scene won’t get written by someone else, so I’m forcing myself to face it. Maybe I don’t want to write the scene because it is dumb and needs to be cut. Maybe I just need to make a royal mess of that scene and fix it in editing. Either way, I need to bite the bullet and write.

Wish me luck! I might even come up with a title for the novel this time. That alone would be a huge accomplishment.