And the Winner is ... Me!

Camp NaNoWriMo winner 2013 badge
This week has been an exciting one. First, as I mentioned in my last post, I far exceeded my Camp NaNoWriMo goal for the month (30,000 words), having written 44,576 words of the first draft of Cast Into the Deep Sea of Stars in April, bringing my total so far to more than 100,000 words. And then the second exciting thing happened: I woke up one morning with the realization that the first novel of my Sancta Futura series really needed to be two novels.

So I've been getting used the fact that I've finished my draft of Cast Out. It's exhilarating! and I owe it all to my clever, subconscious mind, which worked out that I really had two plot arcs squashed together end-on-end. Like the mother of conjoined twins, it took me awhile to convince myself that separating them really would be best for everyone involved. Now, I'll admit that this idea probably occurred to me first because I was nervous about producing what looked like it was going to be a 175,000 word behemoth, and also because I just wanted to be done with the draft (having set a deadline of May 23, my birthday). But once I started rethinking the plot arc of the first book (which ends with chapter 12, the one I just wrote), it became clear that the first book is all about my protagonist figuring out that, hard as it was for her to give up so much of her past, the loss really made possible -- maybe even necessary -- a much more exciting future.

Not only that, but it meant that in the second book (which I've already got pretty well plotted out) I will be able to focus on developing twin story lines in which personal difficulties will parallel difficulties in the planetary settlement group she and her new husband have just joined. And having more time to work on interpersonal dynamics among a cast of characters that will mushroom in book two means that I'll also be able to give attention to an emerging situation that will dominate book three.

That couldn't have happened if I hadn't allowed my subconscious, creative mind to have a nice sit-down with my conscious, rational mind (which had so carefully and cleverly plotted out this first book) and put a flea in my rational consciousness's ear. Both of them are very happy with the outcome. I've written before about the value of plotting, and I still think that starting with a workable plan is crucial to getting a book written, and written well, but my recent epiphany about splitting the plot in two just illustrates that a plan is not the same as a straitjacket. If my conscious mind had gotten dogmatic with my subconscious and insisted that the plan which looked good on paper must be followed no matter what, I might still have been wrestling with this draft months from now.

So the really, really good news is that my first draft is now finished, currently “resting” for a few days before I start revision. I’ll be using Roz Morris’s advice in Nail Your Novel to guide my revision process, beginning with making “beat sheets” to look for plot holes, lags, etc. I’m already thinking of plenty of ways to deepen and enrich the story I’ve already written, and really looking forward to the revision process. I understand the impulse many writers have to just write “the end” at the end of the draft and send the manuscript off to an agent or editor, but I know enough about the writing process to realize that a lot of the “good stuff” happens after the first draft has been finished and allowed to “age” awhile. I’m sure the next time I take a look at it – with fresh “reader’s eyes,” I’ll be able to see the many gaps and imperfections that still need to be addressed. And because I know how good I want this book to be, I’ll be more than willing to give it all the TLC it needs.

My new goal is to have the first round of revision done by the end of May, so that I can give it to some beta readers before I try to put it into final shape. And I hope that by the next Camp NaNoWriMo in July I’ll be starting on book two, tentatively titled At Sea Among the Stars.

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