Monday, October 23, 2017

Prep Work for Another NaNo

by Andrea Renee Cox

It’s just about that time again. NaNoWriMo begins on November 1, which is barely over a week from now. In case you haven’t yet heard, NaNoWriMo is short for the National Novel Writing Month—November—during which writers come together online and try to each write 50,000 words in a new book. Some are rebels and work on screenplays, short stories, or a new draft of an old book. I’ve been one of those rebels before, but this year I’ll be starting from scratch on an entirely new story.

How does one go about preparing for NaNoWriMo?

That’s a fantastic question. I used to simply wing it. Yep, I’m serious. I’d pick the idea most prevalent in my mind and dive into it with zero prep work done. No character sketches, no timeline, no backstories… nothing. It seemed to work… for a while. Then I’d get stuck. Not just I’m-in-the-ditch-someone-tow-me-out stuck, but actual I’m-in-a-fifteen-car-pileup-and-the-rescue-team-is-behind-miles-of-traffic stuck. It would typically take three to five days of precious writing time staring at the page and maybe getting a single paragraph written during that entire span.

In recent years, though, I’ve changed from a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of their pants, or without a lot of prep work ahead of time) to a plantser (a combination or pantser and plotter), but this year I’m considering myself more of a plotter (someone who prepares ahead of time and might have at least a rough outline of their story and/or character sheets worked up).

What type of prep work have I done?

So far this month, I’ve worked on a timeline and brainstormed some key plot points and twists for my story. I have a brief synopsis (which I’ll share in a few moments) as well as character names and ages for the two featured families in this novel. I still have to work up my character sketches, but I already feel like I know them pretty well after having worked on the timeline for a couple of weeks now. The timeline still isn’t finished, but it’s taking good shape at this point.

This is a different type of story for me. It features two families from contrasting lifestyles who find their lives thrust together in ways that will change everyone involved. For me, I thought it important to do up two different timelines, one per family, and then weave them together into the feels-right pace of the book. I nearly have one timeline completely done, and I’m about halfway on the second. Then I’ll be threading them together to form the outline for my NaNo project. This should be a great guideline for what to write in each chapter, though I remain flexible and willing to tweak things in case an amazing bit of genius pops in and takes the story in an entirely new and better direction.

What is my NaNo story about?

Remember when I said I had a brief synopsis for my new project? Well, it’s about to come your way. This story slammed straight into my chest and wreaked havoc with my emotions as soon as it slipped into my mind. Since it wouldn't let me go, it became my most recent priority in writing.

Brief synopsis:
When a child is diagnosed with a terminal illness and needs a transplant in order to survive, the parents are shocked to find out their DNA does not match their son's. In their search for answers, they discover a mistake was made at the hospital shortly after birth, and they received the wrong baby. Once they learn the names of their son's birth parents, will they ask for their own healthy birth child back? Or will they beg for them to save the life of the son of their hearts? Will they turn to the Creator of all babies for wisdom and comfort in the most confusing and pain-filled days of their lives?

Does that knot your gut like a pretzel? It does mine. I’m not certain how I’m going to write the thing, because I know I’ll be blubbering all over the place. Hopefully the tears will clear enough for me to see the screen to get the words on the page. Tissues will be at hand through the entire process, that’s for sure.

What is the working title of the new story?

Are you ready for this? The working title of my NaNo project is:

Child of My Heart

There are many reasons why, but those I'll table for a later discussion. I'm not even sure I know them all yet, because oftentimes I learn more about my book and its title while I'm in the trenches cranking out words that will fill the pages with a beautiful story worth cherishing.

What is the most important part of my prep work?

This is an easy one for me to tell you about, though not always easily lived out. The most important aspect of any project I work on is prayer. The reason I say it’s hard to live out is because sometimes God is silent. I cannot explain this. However, it’s always worth the time and effort to lay down my prayers at His feet and strain to hear even one word from Him. He is my Guide, my Comfort, my Protector. He is the Author of everything I write; I am only the pen He chooses to use. So I will wear out my knees seeking the right words, the right plot twists, the right character strengths and weaknesses for this story—and all my others. It’s for you that I do this. Because I want the words I put on that page to be a direct reflection of God’s love shining into your life when my book eventually reaches your hands.

Do I have working cover art for this book?

I do, and I’ll share it in a moment. Y’all, this picture is NOT the final cover art. It’s simply a thing I put together to have as my computer background while I’m working on this story. It does, however, have qualities that already match the story flitting around in my mind and heart.

The wood represents the raw grittiness that life possesses. Sometimes splinters happen, and all we can do is work through the pain until that tiny piece of wood—or pain—works its way out of our systems.

The knot in the wood shows that sometimes scars make a permanent imprint on our lives, but they leave behind a stronger person with a great story of redemption and victory to tell, which will encourage others to fight through the sorrows of life.

The heart has so many different aspects to it. It’s God’s heart for us, our hearts for Him, and our hearts for each other and all of humanity. It’s how we show we care, how deep we feel things, how much we can empathize with other suffering folks. The heart is what gives us life, because that’s where true life—eternal life—always begins.

The flowers represent the sons in this story, but they also represent each of us. We are the children of God’s heart. When He chooses us and we accept His Son (our Savior) into our hearts, He adopts us into His family. He chooses to love us as His own children, just like He loves Jesus, His own Son. One of my goals for this story is to show how much God loves us even as our hearts break through our circumstances, that He can and desires to be our steady Rock in the storms we face.

What do you think of this temporary cover and the meaning behind each aspect?

Stay tuned to Writing to Inspire. This is where I’ll release updates as I learn them. You might even get some snippets of a working novel at some point. If you haven't yet followed my blog by e-mail, now is a great time. That way you won't miss a moment of my book news. I post new articles every Monday, so you'll get one e-mail per week.

Do you know anyone participating in NaNoWriMo?
How do you encourage them?
Do you ever send them a care package in November?

How do you overcome sorrows or pain life doles out?
Do you have a support group that encourages you?
How do you see God’s love shining through the pain of a broken heart?

Join the conversation!
I love hearing from you.
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Upcoming reading marathon! Do you love Katherine Reay's books or want to discover them? We'll be reading and discussing her books in November and early December. Be sure to check out this article for more information and to find out where the reading marathon will take place.

Remember, if you're participating in my Autumn 2017 Reading Challenge, visit this page to let me know which book you've read for each category.

Haven't signed up yet? No problem! Visit this page to sign up. This challenge goes all the way through December, so it's not too late to join in the reading fun!

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