Saturday, October 26, 2013

Countdown to NaNoWriMo

In less than a week the annual insanity that is NaNoWriMo begins. I've looked forward to this for months, a chance to start writing something new, something different, along with thousands of other people, young and old, around the globe.

I've been thinking about my NaNo novel throughout the month of October, even as I revise the second in my Community of Faith mystery series. Last Monday, after arriving home from my nephew's wedding in Virginia, I realized it was time to start planning in earnest. What I had so far was:
  • It is a mystery
  • It takes place at a retirement community
  • The amateur sleuth raises African violets
  • The victim claims my sleuth's new hybrid as her own (which provides a motive for my sleuth to be the killer)
  • The actual killer has a secret he wants to preserve
And that was pretty much it. When I came up with this series idea (each book based on a different color/hybrid of African violet) several years ago, I was excited because no one had ever done this. I had a hook that was perfect for a cozy mystery series, something Berkeley might grab up in a minute. The African Violet Society of America is the largest society devoted to a single indoor plant in the world. It seemed to me that this gave me a built-in audience of people who would want to buy my books.

But, as I started trying to come up with other suspects and motives this week, it felt like this was going to be just another formulaic cozy mystery. What had seemed like a novel (pun unintended) idea several years ago was now looking like the exact kind of book I've grown tired of reading. But I had looked forward to writing this book for so long, I couldn't abandon it now. Or could I?

Then an announcement arrived in my mailbox this week telling me the webinar about NaNo planning and pantsing was available, finally, after technical glitches messed up the original recording. I watched it this morning.



And you know what happened? This video reminded me that NaNoWriMo is supposed to be fun.

For the past year, I've been obsessed with building a writing career. I've read a gazillion posts on how to be a successful self-published author, what kinds of promotion work, how you should be on Facebook and Twitter and Google+. How you should write short stories to publish in between novels so you don't lose your audience. How you need to be running a writing business. Set goals. Set deadlines.

Since my realistic Christian fiction mystery series is very much a niche market, I'd been thinking of the African violet series as more commercial, a chance to grow a larger audience. All I had to do was write a typical cozy mystery for NaNo. I'd been so obsessed with that idea, it's no wonder my muse has been balking at giving me anything to write about.

While listening to the video and making notes, I suddenly got a totally off-the-wall idea as to what would make this mystery different from every other cozy mystery on the virtual bookshelves at Amazon. And I liked it. I liked it so much that this may become not the African violet mystery series, but the magical realism mystery series.

And you know what? My muse likes it, too. She's tossing me all kinds of weird ideas to put into this novel, characters I hadn't thought of, possibilities for other stories to tell in this universe.

I've totally changed my mind about how I'm going to write this story. Instead of filling up Scrivener index cards with carefully plotted scenes, I'm going to be drawing maps and diagrams and doing character collages. I'm going to try to have my four major plot points before I start, but I may not. This is scary for a plotter. I'm severely left-brained, so taking that blind leap of faith that I can write a novel without all the detailed planning I so like to do is like walking a high wire without a net. But hopefully, if I fall off the wire, I'll find out I have wings.
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