As part of my participation in My 500 words, I am posting what I write each day.
People ask writers where they get their ideas, as if there’s some secret. Ideas are easy, it’s developing them that can be hard work. But even that hard work is nothing compared to the work required to create a first draft from that idea.
I’m planning on participating in National Novel Writing Month this year. I’ve done it the past three years, the first time I attempted it, my laptop crashed in the first week. I don’t know if I would have completed it that year anyway, I didn’t have a plan. The next year I was ready. I had another laptop and the determination to write every morning and get my word count in before breakfast. That year’s novel ended up being 77 thousand words. The next year’s novel was 60 something, and much better.
For the two years I won, I took the time to plan the novel. Doing any actual writing of the story is a sin, but NaNoWriMo participants are encouraged to outline, which I did. I wrote up character biographies, backstories, and even draw some diagrams and maps. I wrote outlines of the stories so I listed each event that had to happen to advance the plot to its conclusion. That skeletal structure helped me over the month to write my novel. Having a good outline combined with getting up every morning at 5ish allowed me to win the last two years.
My ideas for novels lurk in the hidden corners of my mind. I eventually completed the story I failed to win for NaNoWriMo my first year. I have always loved the Christmas song, Do You Hear What I Hear? I imagined there was a story behind it and I managed to write it. My next novel was based on a short story I had read years back. I was reluctant at first, afraid I was copying the idea. But I only used the short story as a prompt. I had my own notions of what I thought would happen. The next year, however, my story was completely original.
I had wanted to write a space-western, that much I knew. One day, out in the city of Desert Hot Springs, I stopped at a restaurant called Sidewinder. The ideas in my head began to suddenly join up. What if there had been a war in space, and some traitor, like America’s Benedict Arnold, betrayed his side and caused the war to be a truce, rather than a win? Where would this traitor go? And what if he had turned over a state-of-the-art spaceship that was called a Sidewinder?
Before that November I drove out to the desert and camped alone, two hours from even a finished road, miles away from any other living soul. I wrote up outlines of the story that day, and on the long drive back, brainstormed more. I stopped at Sidewinder in Desert Hot Springs on the way home.
I had success last year, finishing Sidewinder a day before the month’s end. Months later, I wrote a second draft, then I spent another few months editing the hardcopy. The spiral bound manuscript is next to my now. My plan is to start the next draft in December and be done with it before March.
But for now, Sidewinder sits on the back burner. November is just over two weeks away and I have a new novel to write. Tomorrow I will talk about how the idea for that came about. It started on afternoon while I was lying on my back with my daughter and we looked at the clouds.