Chez Shaffner

Thursday, March 15, 2007

3,000 Words

Today has been an excellent day. Since climbing out of bed this morning a little later than I wished (and about seven snooze-presses after my alarm sounded), I have managed the following impressive tally:

  • Posted blog on Miss America over at NormalGuyNormalGirl
  • Watched the Big 12 wrestling championship finals matches (more on this over the weekend)
  • Watched about two hours of NCAA basketball (I’m doing pretty well so far, only got the Duke and BC games wrong on my best bracket)
  • Ran 5.8 miles
  • Cooked a gourmet dinner (if Shake ‘n’ Bake counts as “gourmet”)
  • Oh, and I wrote 3,000 words of my new novel-in-progress

The last accomplishment is what brings me to Blogger tonight. That word count may sound like a lot (or nothing at all) to some of my readers… Put in another context, it’s about twelve pages (which actually sounds less impressive, so let’s pretend I didn’t offer that conversion).

Let me visit the history of his novel for a few moments, even though I heard on a famous agent’s blog that one should never discuss works-in-progress, because apparently it’s “rude.” [If you agree, please come back tomorrow for a posting that has nothing whatsoever to do with writing…]

The germ for this novel began to develop while I was stationed in Puerto Rico for a long-term consulting project. The culture of the island fascinated me, and I became hopelessly addicted to the food…

In the midst of my assignment, I decided to jumpstart my stalled creativity by participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November 2005. At the time, I had a partial draft of what would eventually become THINGS LIKE THAT DON’T HAPPEN HERE. But I had let myself become hopelessly stymied, and figured NaNoWriMo would be a good way to break free from my cage.

I wasn’t (entirely) wrong.

I came awful darn close to “winning” NaNo that year, hitting the 30,000 word mark with more than a week to go (the goal is 50k), but my fuel ran dry Thanksgiving week, and I ended at 31k. I didn’t look back at that file for more than a year.

After finishing my other novel on Jan 1st of 2007, I took a few weeks off to start the agent-search process and clear my head (and do some real work resulting in a real paycheck). Frankly, after four months working on my novel several hours each and every day, the left side of my brain needed a long siesta.

Finally, in late February, while hanging out in Baltimore for work, I opened the old draft from November 2005 and butchered it with red ink. I mean, that thing was trash. No way to sugar-coat it: pure garbage. I think I might have kept three sentences thus far. But the ideas were sharp, and the characters came alive in my brain. They came to life fully formed, complete with faces and personalities and speech patterns and POV styles. I felt invigorated, and spent a long night creating a detailed plan of attack.

I have managed to eke out 12,000 words so far (including today’s 3k), which puts me at 15% complete (on the first draft, 1% once you factor in the editing time). At my current pace (that’s 3,000 words per day, natch), I should be done with the whole thing somewhere around mid-April. Or not… Perhaps end of summer is a more reasonable target for completing Draft One.


At 1:00 PM, Anonymous Kelly Spitzer said...

I didn't know you almost won NaNoWriMo! How cool. I love how honest you are about your novel, Jason. It's not often that people open up about how grueling the process is. I trashed my first novel, too. Wrote an entirely different one (which is going to get pretty well trashed, too) but couldn't get the idea of the first one out of my head. Several years later, I went back to it. I changed every thing about it except for the main characters names. Who knows what will happen with it, but I'm glad I stuck with it! Keep on keepin' on!


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