The talk among writers during November is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, in which writers are tasked with writing a full-length novel during the month of November. I didn't get into it this year because I'm still trying to perfect my first work.
It's been interesting to see how this journey has unfolded. It started with me going at this on my own, then sharing my work with an old friend, who was gracious to go through it and give me some advice. Then came research on what I could do to make my work better, which led to the second draft. Then I read books about writing and publishing advice and that's when I learned about how getting involved with a writer's group would help.
So that led to a third draft which I brought to the groups to review and got a lot of suggestions on what I could do to make it better. That led to a fourth draft, in which I got additional suggestions, and a fifth draft, which I sent out to a couple of beta readers. And now the book is in the sixth draft and I'm hoping to get to another writer's group so they can see my work. With any luck, the book will hit the stage in which it just needs a polish and I can roll with it.
Meanwhile, I've got ideas for the next part of the trilogy and where I want to go with it. As the next parts take shape, I've envisioned different things about where the story should go, which characters introduced take on important roles and which ones need to fade more into the background. At least one character I thought would take on a major role is turning more into a background character because there wasn't any way I could give him a more expansive role in the story. He has a little importance, but not as much as others do.
The lesson I learned is about flexibility when planning something out for the long term, and that sometimes what you think is going to work out, doesn't go the way you intended. The best thing you can do is adjust so that your vision works better. The worst thing you can do is cling to something too tightly. You can hold firm on a few things, but you can't hold firm on everything.
It's like life. You may have certain ideas you don't want to lose, certain things you intend to do no matter what, but you find you aren't able to make all those ideas work the way you expected and that some things you really want to do just aren't going to happen. It's not for a lack of trying, it's for realizing that life, like writing, demands flexibility and a willingness to adjust. Stay too rigid and it's far less likely things will work out as you expect.
Yeah, that sounds like advice for all our politicians and lobbyists in Washington, doesn't it?
But I'll get off the political tangent and get back to writing. What I've learned is that when you sit down to write, you have to be prepared to adjust if you want the best possible product. You can do this without losing your vision entirely. And you might find that your vision changes somewhat, taking you places you didn't expect to go.
I'd be interested to hear more from others about what they envisioned for their first novels and what changed along the way. I'm betting few writers had final drafts that fit exactly with what they wanted from the start, that they learned that some things had to change, some things had to be eliminated and some things had to go a different direction, because the characters and world they had demanded it.
As for NaNoWriMo, will I ever do it? Perhaps in the future. This trilogy is taking priority, but once that's out of the way, I have a few other book ideas that might lead to a NaNoWriMo project.
But with those ideas, I expect them to be the same as this one, and with life: You've got to be flexible and learn what needs to change with your thinking.
(A brief update on the book: I'm at 61,823 words in 22 chapters, with three more to finish, and those should come this week. With any luck, I can get back to the writer's group in Pratt so they can see what I've got, and maybe a few others with the Kansas Writers Association will be interested in where things are going.)