It’s fun to be inside the world of a novel.

I haven’t been this far inside the creation of a new novel in a very long time. Around 2013 I started to focus on improving my prose which led to shorter works. At the time I had a novel in the works but I had difficulty with the ending so I put it aside. Last spring I picked it up and finished it, but finishing an old novel was a different experience than the creation process that I’m in now.

In 2015 I wrote a few chapters of a story that I felt had the potential to drive a novel. For NaNoWriMo 2022 I picked that up and wrote into it, meaning I wrote any scenes or internal narrative that I could think of to expand or to help define the character and her situation as I understood it (and in the process, I redefined my understanding). There was other unrelated NaNo writing too but I came out with 10,000 new words of character thoughts, interactions with other characters, background moments or scenes or information for the story. I felt as if I was throwing anything and everything against a wall to see what sticks.

Some have stuck, for now, and others have moved into a Scrivener folder I call “Not ready for prime time”; material where I’m no longer confident that the event or characters or voice is a good fit. Since then I’ve added another 10,000 words of potential story, I’ve made character and plot theories, and done new or additional research on coyotes, on grief recovery, histrionics, parentification, and myths. I’ve done Story Grid analysis and decided it’s primarily a morality story with horror elements which gives me some hints in terms of plot and character and character arc targets. I have a tentative skeleton of major actions.

And I have a list of more than twenty moments that I think I should write. Most of these are not ones that tie into the primary plot. Instead they are further defining her situation and key traits and secondary characters to be layered in before and during what I see as the call to action. I write these moments when I feel I have sufficient research or sense of the voice or ways to get at them.

The list makes it easy to see whether every aspect of her personality and situation is being represented and to keep track without doing the writing yet. Something like an outline, except I have no idea about the order. This makes it seem like the story is a character sketch, and it is. I’m writing as if I were sketching and organizing a memoir, which is, I think, the way a novel should be written. I suspect some of these will need to be pruned or merged once I’ve got a complete draft but if get them all down at least I have them available for consideration.

At the same time I’m plucking at these moments and at other things such as the themes, and at unclear elements like characters who have not appeared yet, or traits of existing characters that don’t feel right, and at my research notes, and at targets like the Story Grid elements, and at my hopes for what I want the reader to get from the story. I’m plucking at all these things to see if to see if they will provide more moments to write.

I’m inside the character, feeling around for memories and thoughts and experiences to show who she is and why. I’m doing the same with secondary characters and with my character’s situation and with the proposed plot and with themes too, searching around inside for consistencies and inconsistencies and weaknesses and logical outgrowths and trying to figure out how to show these. And trying to make connections, trying to choose pieces that will hold together, trying to make it all make sense.

I’m getting buried within the novel and it’s a lot of fun. A novel is a much bigger world than a short story so it takes longer, and the longer you live with it, the more it becomes an alternative reality that you also live in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.