State of the WIP Address

I’ve obliquely shared about my current WIP, through posts about protagonist change-ups, essays on world building in general, meditations where I work through some of the book’s major themes, and self-imposed deadlines (none of which I have met, but all of which have moved me closer to the end goal).

Now that the end of the year is nearing, I see that it is time to… remain pretty much tight-lipped about it, but here’s another update with a few more details!

While I planned to have the first draft of the book done by May, several issues were niggling at the back of my mind: the love interest wasn’t working. My theme wasn’t entirely consistent. The story began in the wrong place. And since a casual line in the beginning of a novel can end up surprising even the author by coming into play further in—and since I know by experience that this fortuitous magic is a major part of my process—I didn’t feel right finishing the book until I began it again (Tolkien-style!).

So I did. And as usual, life was busier than expected, and I stalled out, sometimes for months at a time—always brainstorming, always researching, but never confident enough to put fingers to keyboard.

All the while, though, instead of languishing in self-doubt, I grew in confidence: I was sure this idea was good. I’ve finished and revised one other novel and decided it wasn’t marketable. This one, despite all the setbacks, makes me excited.

I’m back on track now, clocking about 1,000 words a day in between writing recommendation letters, lesson planning, home schooling my kids, helping my husband prepare his online course, and generally keeping everyone alive. These are just the warm-up sprints: my goal is to finish up during NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, in which many aspiring authors aim to put 50,000 words on paper in one month. That breaks down to 1,667 words a day. (Every other NaNo participant just took a deep, calming breath reading those words.)

I’m not sure I’m going to finish NaNo this year; if I come to the end of my novel and have only written 46,000 words, I’m certainly not going to be sad about it. But that is the goal: to come to the end. To stop my endless revising and brainstorming and have this puppy ready to pitch next year!

To that end, I won’t be blogging during the month of November—but I will be sharing on Facebook some of my favorite posts from bygone days.

As a postscript, just for fun, I’ll share with you some of the things I’ve researched while preparing for and writing this novel. What book do you imagine coming from this research?

Mushrooms – I mainly researched mushrooms by reading Greg Marley’s Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares: The Love, Lore, and Mystique of Mushrooms, a winsome overview by a wild mushroom enthusiast. He not only provided invaluable information, but he also won me over: trying chanterelles for the first time was a dream I didn’t have until Marley gave it to me! The upshot is that now I’m always on the lookout for fairy rings, and my friends send me photos of mushrooms they find in their yards. I’m certainly no expert, but I make up for it with ardent love!

Belogradchik – This is such an amazing fortress, one I didn’t know existed until recently, and it has served as visual inspiration for one of my locations.

Tides – For this novel, I’m interested in the rhythms of nature: seasons, days and nights, even hormonal cycles! The natural rhythms I knew least about were tides, moon phases, syzygy, those sorts of things. My main source for learning more was Jonathan White’s Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean—part travelogue, part slightly-over-my-head scientific explanations. I didn’t fall for it quite as much as I did for Chanterelle Dreams, but I find myself drawing on it consistently.

Arrow Wounds – I have a cheerfully long-suffering friend, a nurse, who serves as my medical expertise every time I have a question about wounds. We go back and forth about healing times, mobility and lack thereof, how to kill my characters… She’s a great resource. I’ve also had the opportunity to read up on a bit of medieval weaponry, but unfortunately, like with economics or sewing, that stuff just goes in one of my ears and out the other.  To this day, and to my shame, most of my weapons knowledge still comes from Breath of the Wild and the Fire Emblem series.

High-Yield Crops – I’ve had to be very concerned with food sources that can produce a lot of nourishment on a little bit of space. I still feel fairly out of my league here, so I’m still toying with just making up more fantasy plants for my characters to eat.

Dangerous Wildlife – This has been one of the more fun to research. Our world is full of unbelievable things! Some of my favorite finds have been Amy Stewart’s Wicked Plants and Wicked Bugs, in which I learned about exploding trees and the origin of locusts. (Did you know that they seem to come out of nowhere because grasshoppers under duress lay chemically different eggs that become locusts? So they really do come out of nowhere!) My favorite source, though, was Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country, which was truly fascinating and hilarious, and in which I learned about 12-foot-long earthworms, birds with velociraptor claws that can take you out with one kick, and (the stuff of nightmares) saltwater crocodiles. Guys…Australia don’t play.

There you have it: a little taste of what’s been occupying my mind for the last two years! I’m hoping this novel will capture what I love best about Avatar: The Last Airbender, Brandon Sanderson, and a teensy bit of Lewis, though I imagine it would not be up to Lewis’s tastes. Will it succeed in these things? Only time will tell…

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