Today marks the end of week one of not only my first attempt at National Novel Writing Month, but also my first ever attempt at writing a novel-length work of fiction. And at this point the one thing I can say with absolute certainty is that it has been a very eye-opening experience. The biggest thing I learned is that years and years of short story writing – combined with an intense love of movies (because let’s face it, even an epic length movie is likely only a novella length story, if that) – leaves one very ill-prepared for the depth of story required for a novel. I’m used to story-writing that is lean and focused, with little or no subplots or side stories. I’m starting to realize that these are elements I clearly need to learn to incorporate into my writing moving forward.
My actual word count hasn’t been too bad (although I’ve slumped quite a bit from a strong start last weekend). I’m below where I need to be, but not by a lot (so with luck I can catch up over this coming weekend). The problem, however, is that the more I look at the outline for my story, the more I realize that what I currently have is more novella length than novel length, which means I’m very likely to run out of story before I reach my 50,000 word goal unless I make some major adjustments/additions to what I have outlined currently.
The other issue I am facing is that even though I don’t have enough plot for a full novel yet, I’m looking at my story and realizing I need to split it into two stories to make it work as part of the series I’m planning (which is especially ironic considering it’s already too short for one story, much less two). And it all started with one lousy troll!
It happened like this: in the opening of my story, I have a bandit leader about to be executed, who is freed by his fellow bandits and escapes (thus necessitating my protagonist hunting him down). During the escape, the executioner is killed. Even though the character is only in the story for one brief scene, I wanted to do something to make him a little more distinctive, to help pull the reader into the story. So I decided to make him a troll, since this also helps establish from very early on that this is indeed a fantasy world that the story takes place in.
Once I’d made him a troll, the first thought that came to me was, “But he was really a decent sort of fellow, for a troll.” From there I pictured my main character sitting down for drinks with him at the tavern, and a back story quickly followed. Which left me facing a quandary – I now had this interesting secondary character, who’s alive for all of one paragraph at the beginning of the story! The more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted him alive for one full story, so I could take advantage of the development I’d done. Plus, if readers are familiar with the character, that makes his death have that much more impact.
My first thought at the point was, “No problem, we’ll just make this book two in the series, and then we’ll figure out a plot for a new book one.” The only trouble there is, there are several scenes in the story that develop the main character in a way that I really want them in the first book (and several other scenes that I now realize really do work better in a sequel story as opposed to a first story). So now what do I do?
This is probably not the best solution, but as far as NaNoWriMo goes, my solution is to just keep pushing forward with my original plan to make this one story, and then I can spend the next month (or three) after that figuring out how to split it into two stories, and which scenes are going where. Which means my writing life for the several months is likely to be interesting, to say the least. And with that, I suppose I really should get back to working on my story (those words aren’t going to write themselves!). Part of me is tempted to add my blog posts over the month onto the tail end of my novel just to get my word count up (since technically this is all writing I did during the month of November), but at the same time that does feel a bit like cheating. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how close to that magical 50,000 word goal I can get!