I have to apologize for being absent on the comments here lately. I am just coming up for air after participating in my first ever Nanowrimo. For those of you not acquainted with this crazy concept, Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month and it takes place during the month of November. During that month, people from around the world commit to writing an entire novel -- that's 50,000 words -- in 30 days. Broken down that comes out to 1667 words a day, every day. God may have rested on the seventh day, but not us writers, apparently.
But I know you are all scratching your heads and saying, but Lori, you're such an accomplished writer. You have three books under your belt already. You just published your phenomenal first novel, Substitute Me. Why would you participate in such a pedestrian exercise as Nanowrimo? Surely you know by now that you can't possibly write a decent novel in a month. Come now.
Well, I have a confession to make. Yes, I've written two other non-fiction books and a novel, but I waded into the world of YA and I needed Nanowrimo, to help get me out. Sort of. Let me explain this round-about writer's journey.
Once upon a time, somewhere between book one and book two of mine (both of which are non-fiction), a good friend and I decided that we would never get rich writing critically acclaimed non-fiction books about race and culture. We realized that the big money was clearly in teen fiction and we wanted in. So, we cobbled together an outline for a story that we thought was riveting, divided up the chapters and started writing. When we handed it to our agent, she handed it right back and told us that while we may know something about journalism (we were both magazine writers at the time), we clearly didn't get fiction writing. But instead of slamming the door on our faces, she worked with us and had us rewrite that manuscript about 100 times until it resembled something like an actual novel. But it still sucked and to this day it's sitting in a folder in the back of my closet somewhere.
But from that original idea that my friend and I had, another story idea was born in my head and now that I 'understood' how to write a novel, I told our agent that I'd like to try again and she agreed to read it when I was done. A few months later, I gave her my first draft. While it wasn't perfect, she agreed it had potential. I worked on it some more and within the year it was sold to a major publisher. And then a very strange thing happened. After a first round of edits, that manuscript of mine ended up in publishing limbo. Months passed, then years. I wrote two more books; I had another child; I left New York City and moved to Philadelphia, and I accepted a full-time job in academia. I almost forgot about the confused teenage girl named Syrinthia James that I had created almost four years before, but she didn't forget me. She came knocking on my subconscious and told me I had to bring her to life again.
So I called my agent, who contacted the publisher and, 'surprise!' the manuscript was found. I wanted to get right back to work on the book, but when I reread the story, I realized I wasn't the same person anymore and my main character wasn't either. I knew what I wanted to do with Syrinthia, but the only way to bring my vision to life was to start over. Can a writer ever hear two more painful words? Start over? (ugh!). But I had no choice. There was no way to "fix" the errors in the story. The manuscript needed a major overhaul, so I did what any good writer does, I procrastinated. I took on other projects. I taught my classes. I blogged. Time passed and my deadline kept approaching. Enter Nanowrimo. By the end of October, I knew I needed either a Romanian gymnastics coach to whip me into shape or something like Nanowrimo, which offered a false deadline, tons of encouragement and the camaraderie of some 500,000 other crazy writers trying to accomplish the same goal as I. Since I don't know any gymnastics coaches, I went with Nanowrimo and it worked.
Yes, girlfriends, I am happy to report that as of November 30, I typed that 50,000 word and finished the manuscript. (The story wasn't actually finished until 54,000 words, by why quibble over details.) I'll have you know that in order to finish on time I wrote in some strange places, including on an airplane, in a hotel bathroom, and in bed. Of course, now I have to edit the beast, but to me that is far less daunting than the rewrite. And that is how I made the journey into YA fiction and how I became a Nanowrimo junkie.
In return for answering this question: What's the strangest but most effective regimen you ever put yourself on to make a deadline? Or you can tell me the strangest thing you've ever done in a hotel bathroom? Either way I'll send one lucky person an autographed copy of my new novel, Substitute Me and an IOU for the as-yet untitled YA novel. All comments must be received by 7pm on Friday December 10 for the drawing.
LoriTharps.com to read more about her work and passions.