From the Round File: Together is Enough

I’m not going to participate in NaNoWriMo this year.

It was a difficult decision but I just finished a book and I’m on the cusp of finishing another non-creative project, plus there’s day job stuff and the holidays. I want to write in November–I want to write a lot in November–but NaNoWriMo would be unhelpful pressure.

In the two years I’ve done it, I’ve never won. I wrote about 30,000 words the first year I participated and just shy of 35,000 words last year, but I owe NaNoWriMo a great deal, including my entire career as a creative writer. I’d started the odd fictional thing before, but I’d never finished anything longer than a short story.

To inspire those who may be NaNoWriMo-ing, or considering it, here’s the opening of the book I started exactly two years ago today. There is so much here that’s bad. It’s fueled by insta-lust and relies on two strangers quoting Wallace Stevens to each other–which is one nerdy fantasy. And those are only the beginning of reasons this novel will never see the world outside of my hard drive.

Reading this reminds me how far I’ve come and how far I have to go. So get writing!

Continue reading “From the Round File: Together is Enough”

From the Round File: Brave in Heart

It is a truth universally acknowledged that I always start writing books in the wrong place. I have yet to pen a manuscript and retain the first chapter through revision. I always add something or, more often, throw something out. Often, thousands of things. The delete keys speaks poniards, and every word stabs. (Quick, name that play!)

I’m currently writing the second entry in a series about DC staffers and, only about 20,000 words in, I’ve trashed the first half of the first chapter. I really liked what I cut. As an introduction to the heroine and her voice, it worked. There wasn’t a backstory dump, it wasn’t slow or boring: it introduced the dynamic for the book, but it did so in such a way as to undercut the relationship between the hero and the heroine. If there’s a sin in romance writing, that’s it. So into the round file (aka the trash) that opening scene went.

Since I can’t show that scene to you because I haven’t even shown it to my editor yet, I’m going to show you the unrevised, original first chapter of Brave in Heart instead. Needless to say, this isn’t how the finished product reads.

In this case, the cut occurred because nothing happens in this eight page-opening. In this earlier draft of the book, Margaret and Theo’s separation was much longer (brought on about a fight about the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, rather than John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry of 1859). The prologue didn’t exist yet. There was just…this.

Now I like the image of Margaret on the top of the hill. And while much of this writing made it into the book (albeit in other forms), some of her backstory didn’t. As a writer, I needed to know these things about her and writing this was the only way to learn them.

What I’m trying to say is writing something you don’t ultimately use in a book isn’t falling down the rabbit hole, it’s process. It’s inevitable and futile and a little bit beautiful. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Continue reading “From the Round File: Brave in Heart”