(This posting originally appeared on The Melt-Ink Pot)
As Andrea mentioned earlier this week, we’re just a month away from the start of National Novel Writing Month. I’ve done NaNoWriMo twice now, in 2006 and 2008, and “won” both times. (I skipped 2007 because we were refinishing all the wood floors in our house and I just didn’t have time.) Though I have to be honest and admit that neither story was “finished” in 30 days and 50,000 words; the first one (The Vedia Gamble) came in at 120K words and took me until December 20th to finish, and the second one (The Serendipity Caper) took me until May 31, 2009 to wrap up — at a whopping 280K words. Both are set in what I call my “Phoebe-verse,” in which Nebraska librarian Phoebe Caldicott accidentally gets swept away by a crew of space pirates and becomes their captain.
Both books were great fun to write, and I think the process of putting out an average of 1,667 words every day for an entire month is incredibly freeing. When I don’t stop to edit each and every sentence to death before moving on to the next, I get a lot more writing done. Actually finishing my writing projects was something of a challenge for me before I met NaNoWriMo (though I did complete two books and a couple of short stories before then). But now that I’ve seen the value of just telling the story first and worrying about the fine points later, I’m hooked. After all, no first draft is ever pretty. Right?
And I have to admit … the endorphine rush of actually finishing a novel is pretty darned heady. I could easily get addicted to it!
I think both are good stories (and my alpha readers actually seemed to enjoy them), but both require a bit of work in order to get them ready for submission to publishers and agents. In the meantime … November is approaching, and I’m not ready to dip back into the “Phoebe-verse” for a third helping until I have the first two books in a more final state. So I’m obviously going to have to look elsewhere for inspiration this year. The question is, where?
Like my friends here, I get lots of story ideas. Sometimes it’s a whole story, and sometimes it’s just a character or a setting or a plot point. And they can come from almost anywhere — a photograph, a line from a song, a mis-read headline, an overheard snippet of conversation, or a fragment of a dream. At one point, back in college, I actually kept a paper journal where I jotted these thoughts and ideas down. Sadly, I’m no longer that disciplined.
I do keep a file called “Story Ideas” on my netbook, and at least some of my ideas have made it in there. The problem is that I also kept one on my old laptop, and on the laptop before that, so now I have idea files all over the place. Not only that, but since an idea can jump out at me from just about anywhere, I often have them when I don’t have my netbook handy. So then what?
I did get a small notebook to keep in my purse, where I can jot down ideas. Sadly, I don’t use it much, though sometimes my steno pad at work serves that purpose too. I have a feeling both will see more use when November rolls around.
Interestingly, the tool I’ve found most useful recently is my LiveJournal. I can access it from anywhere there’s an Internet connection, and it’s an easy matter to jot myself a private entry that I can then pull up later. Tagging these entries with “story idea” makes it easy to pull them all together in one spot for easy reference.
So now I’m considering moving all of my story ideas onto my LJ, using a standard format that looks something like this:
Title: The Vedia Gamble
Quick Synopsis (1-2 sentences): A middle-aged spinster from Nebraska is inadvertently abducted by space pirates, accidentally becoming their captain.
Jacket Blurb*: Phoebe Caldicott didn’t think her life could get any worse. Not only was she trapped in a dead-end job that she hated passionately, but she was in debt, single, rapidly approaching forty, and still a virgin to boot. And now she was on her way home from her sister’s funeral, on an overcrowded airplane that was running late and out of peanuts – of course. How could her life get any worse?
The pirate spaceship The Damned Strumpet was just dipping into the Earth’s atmosphere to replenish her oxygen supplies when she accidentally scooped up part of one of the planet’s primitive aircraft. And wouldn’t you know, the craft’s only survivor — Phoebe — somehow managed to kill The Strumpet’s captain – which meant that she was now the captain!
No doubt about it, Phoebe “Ace” Caldicott was in for one hell of a ride!
Notes: There are one or more saboteurs aboard the ship, and Phoebe needs to find them and stop them. (etc.)
*Note that most of my story ideas get written up first as the copy from the book’s (as yet imaginary) back cover. I figure if I can’t get the basic idea down in one or two snappy-sounding paragraphs, I’m not ready to write it up yet.
So I’m going to give this a try. My goal is to get my ideas organized by next week, so I can pick my NaNoWriMo project. I’ll let you know how it works out!