I love November. The weather finally settles into what passes for Fall in Texas. Sometime in the first week, all the leaves will change color. The next day, or so it seems, they’ll all drop. Unless you live in my neighborhood which is full of live oak trees. Our leaves drop in the spring, which is as annoying and weird as it sounds.
Walking into Kroger yesterday, my husband was shocked to see Christmas items for sale. No surprise here. Holiday season truly starts with Halloween, but November 1 is the day it goes into overdrive. Poor Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, is marginalized to a few end caps with brown and orange leaf-shaped plates and bags of Pepperidge Farms stuffing mix and cans of pumpkin.
If you’re a writer, November might mean NaNoWriMo. For those reading who aren’t writers, NaNo is a month-long challenge to write a 50,000 word novel. For the curious, that averages out to 1,300 words a day during one of the busiest months of the year. STILLWATER, my novel which being published next Fall, started eight years as a NaNo project. Two things remain from that first attempt: the main character, Ellie, and the town, Stillwater. Strange to think of how it evolved from an attempt to write a modern-day version of Jane Austen’s Persuasion to a murder mystery.
November 1 is also the date the sequel to STILLWATER starts on. If you follow me on Twitter, you;ll know this sequel, working title THE FISHER KING, has been killing me. Everyone said the second book is harder and boy were they right. Though true to form, I’ve made the process more difficult than it need be. But, my writing style seems to be writing a book and a half worth of prose before finding the real story. Such is life. I’ll have to evolve into an efficient writer if I want to achieve my writing goals.
It’s fitting that I’m working on a novel set during the exact dates I’m living (though STILLWATER & THE FISHER KING are set in 2012). I can walk outside and observe the how the shadows fall on the ground, the crispness in the air, the spikes of temperature that catch us Texans off-guard. My mind turns to Thanksgiving dinner plans, Christmas shopping. Which of my characters would be thinking of these things, as well? Those are the things you forget about when writing in July a book set in November. The little things give novels a richness and lived in feel that readers love, without realizing they love it. The five senses, a sense of time, a sense of place, characters we can recognize and relate to–though not always approve of–are what make novels linger with a reader.
For me, the second draft is a focus on the little things. Enriching the novel with the senses while also cleaning up the mystery and sprinkling clues in I forgot on the first time. Getting rid of lazy, passive first draft words, tightening and sharpening the prose and expanding narrative. This is when the story takes shape. This is when the doubts which have plagued me throughout writing the first draft–I’m terrible! I’ll never be able to finish a MS again. Why did I ever think I could do this? I suck.–recede and I finally start to believe again.
And, about damn time.