I seem to be 20,000 words into this year’s Camp NaNoWriMo and haven’t given up in frustration. If you’re very (un)lucky, I might do what I’ve done in previous years and post an unedited extract of the monstrosity. For now, here’s what I’ve discovered, as I limp through the notorious second week…
Planning vs. ‘pantsing’ = overrated
In some ways, writing out character sheets and a plot outline in detail has really helped. I can check elements of characters at a glance and remember what was meant to happen in the next chapter. The problem is, just like my last work-in-progress that’s been paused for this book, your fictional chums don’t give a shit about your lovingly hand-crafted schedule. They’ll just do whatever they want anyway.
Relationships are hard, let’s go shopping
So, it goes something like this. Sion has an ex-girlfriend, Karen, whose parents have picked out a nice and sadly mandatory husband for her. At the same time, Sion’s started seeing the mysterious Flora, who keeps appearing and being all beautiful and stuff. Karen is totally fine with this, given her flexible approach to dating. Meanwhile, Flora has a relationship with her boss Finlay best described as ‘it’s complicated’. Then, Sion’s best mate tries to set her up with new boy Tony, which mostly backfires at a drunken house party, but does result in talking through some Feelings then falling into bed with Karen. But then Flora reappears and whisks Sion off somewhere private, only the plan is less sexytimes and more deathy murdertimes. Look, would it help if I drew you a diagram?
(If I’m honest, it’s starting to make one 17-year-old boy’s quest to get his end away look like the Gone With The Wind of our times.)
Contemporary YA makes me feel old…
…but writing fiction set in the 80s will always make me feel older, because as we all know anything before the year 2000 is historical fiction. Still, it’s quite hard not to throw in any technology references that won’t be the dated MySpace of ten years’ time, or trip up completely on slang in dialogue. At least researching Edinburgh this time round can just involve a nice walk up the road in the other direction from book one, that doesn’t involve hitting up the National Library of Scotland’s map archives afterwards to check if there’s still a Wimpy in town. (There bloody isn’t. Raging. Might start a petition.)
Scrivener is still amazing
I don’t use half the features, but I’m so glad I bought it. I can furtle about with individual plotlines, import all my research from websites as PDFs, and the corkboard is invaluable. Especially when you’ve accidentally assembled contemporary YA’s Pinterest-friendly answer to The Corrs.
I’ll never write Middle Grade
Last time I tried, a character dropped an f-bomb 3000 words in, then someone died painfully and about halfway through there was some off-screen humping. Then I was at the Literary Salon chatting to another children’s author, and she suggested applying for a novel contest. I explained what’s in the first book that’s on query, and she shrunk into the bar somewhat and muttered ‘maybe MG isn’t for you’. Painful, but true. Come back in a few years, when I’m not herding stabby teenagers or banshee hitmen.
Representation is fun!
This book in particular seems to be scratching that itch I mentioned in the last post. Not that my first urban fantasy doesn’t, with a Latino main character, a strong lady kelpie, and a bisexual selkie. But with this book I’m well into familiar territory, and I’m finding it surprisingly easy to write along lines of class and sexuality I know well. (There’s probably another discussion to be had about all this ‘own voices’ thing, but I don’t have the braincells today.) Even if nothing comes of this manuscript, I’m really enjoying writing it. So that has to count for something, right?
Next time on Camp NaNoWriMo, a bout of panic as I try to juggle thrilling action scenes with an 80s music festival and preparation for my big Book Festival appearance. Have I told you about it yet…?