Friday, December 7, 2018

After NaNo by Jane Kindred

Well, I made it through NaNoWriMo! And I actually won it this year. (Winning consists of hitting the 50,000-word mark by midnight on November 30.) I was only at 28,000 words by the final week, but I had taken that week off work, so I knuckled down and started writing at double speed. Even so, by the second-to-last day, I was still 12,000 short.

I was ready to accept that I wasn’t going to win. After all, the effort wasn’t completely wasted, since 38,000 new words was still a lot compared to how long it had taken me to write the first half of the book (I started NaNo with a book in progress at 50,000 words…that it had taken me five months to write). But then I just decided to go for broke and see what I could crank out without pausing. I literally had to write for eight hours straight both days, because I am not a word sprinter. Those last 12,000 words are pretty close to what a monkey would bang out at random, but somehow, I did it, with literally one minute to spare when I updated my word count on the NaNo website.

My book, naturally, thumbed its nose at me and informed me that I had a few more thousand to go. But by December 3, I had a complete first draft at 103,800-some words.

Now comes the fun part: fixing the mess. It took me so long to write the first half that I kept forgetting details from earlier in the story since I wasn’t keeping a running document of my thinking process alongside it like I usually do. (Which is how I “plot.”) So now I get to go through and try to make everything fit together. My characters’ hair and eye color and skin tones changed several times, the settings and time of year changed, and some of the names changed. There were even a handful of characters I created during that 12,000-word stretch that I didn’t bother to name, leaving placeholders like “Some Guy” and “Second Girl”—and there’s one secondary character who was just “Dude” throughout the whole book. I still have to name the world, the realm, and the city, along with streets and taverns and mountains. And I’m still not entirely sure how the magical system works—or the technology. And, weirdly, there are no animals in this world, except for a pair of reindeer that I forgot about after the second chapter. Some of that will be easy to slip into the story, but some of it may mean an entire rewrite.

But there are two things I feel like I absolutely need to add for the story to be complete: an epilogue and a prologue. I often include epilogues in my fantasy, because the ending is usually the defeat of an enemy or the destruction of an evil empire or the end of a quest, and I like to add a couple of pages that take place sometime later when everything has settled down to show how it all worked out for the characters. (Or, if I’m planning a sequel, to drop something unexpected and unsettling in there, because I’m evil.) But prologues are another thing altogether. I usually (though not always) hate them when I encounter them in the wild, so I’ve rarely included one. I figure the story should start at the right place, and if you need a probably didn’t. But this time, since the world is one of enchantment and lies, I’m thinking a “before it got like this” scene would help readers relate to the characters more.

So what say you, good people? Prologues: yea or nay?


Diane Burton said...

Congrats, Jane! I'm amazed and full of admiration for your determination to finish 50k. I've never entered NaNo, but I've heard so much about it, esp. from friends who've won. As far as epilogues go, sometimes they're needed. I like reading what happened later. I don't often use them, but I did in Numbers Never Lie (romantic suspense). It felt right. Prologues that give backstory can add new info, rather than an info dump in chapter one. It depends on the story. Wishing you much success in whipping this story into shape.

Maureen said...

Congratulations! I also participated in NaNo and won- I've done it the past 8-9 years and love it. But I usually have a hot mess when I'm done. Prologues? Not always a fan, but they can be done well and are sometimes necessary.

Elizabeth Alsobrooks said...

Congratulations! Sounds like it was just the inspiration you needed. Prologue are part of the story, to me. I don't mind them if they have a every other word in the story.