NaNo(Re)WriMo: the first few days

So, I’m not formally participating in NaNoWriMo this year. Not because I’m not writing a novel — I am — but because I’m actually REwriting a novel. And that’s not what NaNoWriMo is for, so I’m out.

But I’m still writing, reworking the post-Civil War outlaw novel I started (and failed to finish) last year. I had thought I’d be throwing out most of last year’s text, but on rereading it this past month, I’ve realized a lot of it is salvageable, so instead, I’m focusing on just adding to what I have. I’ll ditch the junk as I go and clean out the rest later in revision.

Which means I’ve been able to focus just on the writing, and so far, I’ve managed to scratch out just under 2,200 words. It’s not a lot for the first four days, but considering that I’m working on grading student essays, editing Jersey Devil Press, and getting well (I caught a cold this weekend), I’m happy with that number.

The biggest obstacle throughout this month is going to be the plot. This is always my biggest obstacle in longer fiction, and I tend to look for ways to shortcut that process, usually by hanging my stories on the coathangers of other plots through an exercise called a descriptive outline.

In this case, I’m pulling together a whole wardrobe of coathangers, taking as inspiration the exploits of the Quantrill’s Raiders during the Civil War, the actions of the Younger and James gangs during and after the war, the events of Lee-Peacock feud in Pilot Grove, Texas after the war, and the “New Rebellion” of Cullen Baker in Texas and Arkansas after the war. I also realized a couple months ago that I needed to bring my cast of characters — much larger than the cast of Hagridden — together in one place, to gather the miscreants, so to speak, so I returned to my beloved Japanese cinema and I’m building my gang of rebels along the same lines as the heroes in Seven Samurai (though my story is more from the bandits’ point of view).

(If you’re interested, you can go to my NaNoWriMo page here on the website to see the list of books I’m reading while writing my own novel.)

I also knew that there would be a key death at the end of the book, and I decided this past summer not to reveal who actually did the killing, which means there’s an element of mystery to the novel. So I’ve had to work that out, too.

That’s a lot of things to hang up on an outline, which will probably be a problem down the road, but this summer I realized I need to treat this novel as episodic, at least for now, so I can write the adventures of my characters a little at a time and then sort them out along the outline later. That means, of course, that I need to know who my characters are and what their biographies are, which is what I spent my summer and parts of last month working on. (More on those characters in the next post.)

So that’s where I stand: I have (finally) a general sense of plot — or plots, anyway — and a fairly strong sense of who these characters are, including where they’re from, what they look like, and how they got roped into the one-man revolution that my novel concerns. And now I’m just writing, a little this week and a lot more this coming weekend.

hagridden_book_coverMy first-ever attempt at NaNoWriMo resulted in the first draft of Hagridden, out this year from Columbus Press. You can order your copy from several online venues, or enter the Goodreads giveaway for a free, signed copy!

Published by Samuel Snoek-Brown

I write fiction and teach college writing and literature. I'm the author of the story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, the novel Hagridden, and the flash fiction chapbooks Box Cutters and Where There Is Ruin.

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