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My Story Broke Up With Me — and I Couldn’t Be Happier

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We've been together for years. While I'd written other novels before during the high-pressured flurry of NaNoWriMo, I had never studied writing craft so deeply and applied it so faithfully to my own work.

We grew up together, my story and I. As I worked on it, I began to think of myself as a writer, as a full-on novelist. The novel itself unfurled from a tiny idea nugget into a solid, multilevel plot with fascinating, fully-realized characters. Interesting ideas flashed bright and flamed out. Subplots erupted, threatened to take over, and ultimately urged growth throughout the storyline. A character once banished to placeholder status is now a key challenger and ally. Along the torturous, unmarked journey, the story and I worked together, delighted and frustrated, but always committed.

Characters were upfront, opinionated, and insistent. A bossy character told me that I was writing the story wrong and dictated the opening scenes. (She was right. Eleanor is always right until she learns better.) A character who originally refused to share the terrible night that ruined his life finally got fed up with my prodding; the happy, rewarding life that he has lived is the aftermath of tragedy. A key secondary character left the story entirely, telling me that she would do better in another novel.

The biggest, meanest antagonist showed me the light side of the mean guy. No mean guy considers himself to be evil — everything he does is intended for good. He revealed his soft, pale underbelly and I saw how grievously wrong things had turned out for him, how lost and defeated he lives, and how he aches to accomplish something lasting, powerful, and important no matter what it takes, no matter the casualties.

I learned point of view and voice, practicing first person and third person in successive drafts, deepening my appreciation for their opportunities and limits . Reluctantly, I admitted and adjusted my enthusiastic reliance on adverbs and florid description. I studied continuously and used what I learned. More times than I want to remember, I stunned a teacher by thanking them for blowing up and progressing my craft and my story.

This novel has been thrashed out and discussed with others. It has also been read by many generous, discerning early readers. Various versions have been workshopped and shared with critique groups. Right now, the novel and I are in deep revision and in the hands of an adept, smart, supportive critique partner.

All summer, I wondered if I should do NaNoWriMo. Ultimately, I concluded this novel came first, that my time was better invested in finalizing the last wondrous version of this terrific story. My heart's pleas that I love NaNoWriMo, learn so much, and cherish winning for the past ten years lost to hard-headed practicality, logic, and good sense. I was resolved to do the smart thing no matter how niggling ideas writhed doubt.

...

My Story Broke Up With Me — and I Couldn’t Be Happier

We’ve been together for years. While I’d written other novels before during the high-pressured flurry of NaNoWriMo, I had never studied writing craft so deeply and applied it so faithfully to my own…
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Saturday, 13 April 2024

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