Since it is National Novel Writing Month, I want to take the time to reflect on my personal writing goals and process to push myself to finish my novel within the next year. Yes, I know: NaNoWriMo is all the rage during November, and I could use it to get a huge head start! Yet, I don't particularly buy into the whole 50,000 words in a month hype. Of course, I can write 50,000 words quickly if I sit and write daily, and it's a wonderful practice to keep my creativity flowing. However, would I produce quality, thoughtful work? I doubt it. Don't get me wrong: I have confidence in my writing! I just know how my muse works, and it doesn't take kindly to strict schedules. It likes to stroll down the cobblestone street, taking in all the sights, sounds, and smells until the characters reach out and yank it down a dark, mysterious alley that forever alters its course and view of the world. You won't see #NaNoWriMo on my Twitter, or here, for that reason.
I'm looking at this month in a different light because I'm finally in a solid place where I can focus time on my novel. Back in March, I quit my 9 to 5 that was everything but and started my freelance writing career. It took time for me to settle in and get my routine down pat because I am a professional procrastinator and worry wart. It's been a frightening but necessary step to finally transition to a path that focuses on my love of writing. I mean, you have to learn all about self-employment taxes and make sure you save and pay your state and federal taxes quarterly! You have to develop your own contract, build a client base, make professional connections, and find a way to get over that fear of someone stiffing you and shorting your income for the month. There's no one to keep up with your expenses, and you're in charge of budgeting for your own "vacation," "sick days," and healthcare. Freelancing is intimidating at first, so it's exciting that I'm finally at a place where I am not so anxious about it. On that note, National Novel Writing Month signals the perfect time to jump back into writing for me and not just to make a living.
To get back into the groove, my focus has been on research. Sure, it'd be great if I would knock out the next few chapters to Dead Highway, but I've found that taking a break really drove my ideas to new heights. I always wanted this book to be different. These aren't your typical zombies, it's not your usual apocalypse, and you won't easily guess where I'm going. For one, I'm going to actually have an origin story that tells how it happened based on loose science. Sometimes reality can be scarier than even the most skin-crawling fiction. When do zombie apocalypse novels give you a reason for why these horrible things happened? I'm a fan of The Walking Dead, but the problem I have with it and other similar works are that you get few answers about what happened before everything came crashing down. Is there a purpose or is it just a natural occurrence? Was it divine? Was it a man-made accident or intentional? Was it aliens or space germs? Give me something! A good origin is something I feel is missing from many undead works, and I want to get it right.
As a rule, I only loosely plan anything I write. I have pit stops. I have an overall plot. I have a few big moments in mind. One the other hand, I simply cannot write creatively through an outline. (Academically? Yeah, not that either. It's much more likely that you'd find me writing my outline after I wrote my term paper.) The fact that my characters speak to me, direct me, really adds more to anything I type on the screen than any planning ever did. Even writing something as large as this work, which I hope to expand to a trilogy, has yet to change that. One thing I do plan to do, however, is to draft a working timeline. When I recently reviewed StoryMill, I inserted my current chapters into the software's timeline feature, and it gave me a solid idea of where I should be and how the time frame will start influencing the action in the novel. There's no doubt I'm stuck in my ways, but I've realized that my writing process is evolving and that I need to embrace it to get to where I want to be one year from now.
This year, #NaNoWriMo marks the rekindling of my relationship with the working title Dead Highway. I've been wooed with the promise of grotesque decomposition and flesh-tingling danger. What lady can say no to that?