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Monday, November 30, 2009

No Mo Nano Fo Now





                    "Pencils down. Time to hand in your papers."  That's almost what it felt like--one of those college essay tests where you say some pretty good things and bluff your way through the rest.  But I made it to the end--50,314 words.  I met the proposed challenge but I'm not finished by any means.

          From the beginning I was certain that I could do it.  My plan was to write the novel, keep posting my blog everyday, comment on other blogs on a regular basis, and keep living my life as normally as possible and I pulled it off.  Granted I was at the advantage of not having to go to a full-time job every day and I certainly have to admire anyone was going to work and writing every night (or day).

         This was the challenge that I needed and thanks to my newfound enterprise of blogging I might have never heard of NaNoWriMo.  So call it God directing me or happenstance or what have you, this was a blessing and a real kick in the pants. I have often dreamed of writing a novel, have all sorts of book ideas written in notebooks and floating in my head, and I even once started writing a novel many years ago.  Previously I never had anything driving me.  The NaNo deadline did it.

             Here's what I've done and I would like some opinions about where I can go with this, especially from the Christian writers.  My novel, A DESERT PLACE, has some very Christian themes, however the story is gritty and deals with very bad people.

            The story line is concerned with a modern day Jonah figure who continually runs from God's calling. He becomes involved with a crime syndicate, stealing cars and dealing cocaine. Figuratively speaking he is swallowed by the evil beast of underworld crime until he finally breaks free, but only after a chain of catastrophic consequences.  I have avoided all profanity, but there is considerable drug usage, violence, and not overly graphic sex.

           Briefly, the synopsis of the story is this:  Joe (Jonah) Bloom goes to the remote New Mexico ranch of an old friend where he finds him dead from a bullet to the back.  Left there for Joe is a briefcase filled with cash and a satchel full of papers. Joe must unravel the mystery of who murdered his friend, what are the papers that were left for him, and who is the woman named Rosalita who is to be the recipient of part of the money. During the course of the story Joe reflects back over his past twenty years involved in crime, the entertainment industry, and eventually serving God. Did his friend die because of Joe's past ties with crime?  And when he finds Rosalita what light will she shed on the mystery?

           I explained my strategy of how I would approach the novel in my post of November 2 . I stayed with this strategy for the most part. Since the novel covers a period of thirty years I found it easier since I didn't necessarily have to write the story in a linear fashion. The novel starts in 1998 so I could establish the mystery that would lead to the climax. The majority of the novel is backstory of Joe's history of how he got to where he ended up and how his past is connected to what is happening when we meet Joe. His memory sequence begins in his last year of high school in 1979 and goes up to 1988 when he reaches a point in his life when he believes his problems are behind him. Then we move back to 1998 where the past catches up to him and the story comes to its climactic end.

          This approach didn't necessarily require writing in a linear fashion which in some ways made it easier to just write without planning.  There were several different life episodes over the decade that I wrote about so whenever I would get stuck I would just jump to another episode and write until I got stuck on that one. The disadvantage of jumping about without keeping careful notes and character studies is that at times I made certain errors which I hope I caught, but in the editing process I may find more that I didn't catch.  A few days ago I kind of took the advice that Carrie cited from John Irving about writing the last line first, except I wrote the entire last chapter, which I found helpful because it gave me a better sense of where the entire story was going.  After I had done this I started seeing themes in the story that were more apparent than I had previously seen.  I don't know if I would jump around writing something again, but when writing fast I think it works fairly well.     

           So now I have this novel that needs to be finished and since I've already come this far I think there is a greater likelihood that I will finish it.  Then after that I plan to actually start following through with some of my past projects while continuing to blog away.  You can click here to see an excerpt from my novel and I heartily welcome any critiques that you may have to offer.   

          So what about other NaNo particitpants?  Did you end up with something that you feel is marketable? What are you going to do with your project next?  Do you think you still need to add a lot more to what you've done in order to make it work?

          Also, since I am not very familiar with "Christian fiction", can one get away with gritty topics and how far can one go?  Or am I better off subduing my references to religion and shoot for a more mainstream audience?  Does the "Christian" label restrict and hinder your sales potential? 

         I'm tossing these questions out there because I really want to get educated so I hope some of you can toss me back some helpful answers.





over 3750 words on Saturday-- never did reach my 5000 goal for one day on just the novel

11 comments:

  1. Congrats on the NaNo win, good sir. That is indeed an accomplishment!

    As for the Christian aspect of the novel affecting its salability, I think it would depend on how you handled it. There are Christian themes in Crime and Punishment, but they don't coalesce until the very end. The Chronicles of Narnia offers Christian themes in a very elegant, allegorical manner. If the Christianity is subtly depicted, you've probably got yourself a murder mystery novel. If it's more front-and-center, you've got an edgy Christian murder mystery novel.

    Just my two cents on that count, though I confess I read very little of either genre, so my comments should be taken with multiple grains of salt!

    Again, congrats on the win, sir. Happy editing!

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  2. I'm glad the John Irving post was useful to you! Congrats on NaNo-ing something that you want to continue with!

    Here's a link to agent Rachelle Gardener's posts on Christian publishing, where she gives her thoughts about what it encompasses... from what you've described, it sounds like you haven't gone "too far" for Christian fiction, and maybe what you'll eventually need to do is get an agent like Rachelle who represents both Christian and mainstream fiction (so long as the mainstream fiction "does not contradict a Christian worldview") and let the agent help you decide how best to pitch the novel, and to which audience?

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  3. Simon -- Thanks for the support and your opinion. I wish what I have written attained the high standards of the works you have cited, but you've made a good point.

    Carrie-- You have offered much helpful advice to your readers. Thanks for the link-- I'll check it out.

    Lee

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  4. Yay Arlee!

    I do think I walked away from NaNo with a marketable project, but more than that one I think readers will appreciate. *Excuse my modesty!*

    I love my story and it sounds like you feel the same about your masterpiece. That to me is a wonderful start!

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  5. Hey, rLEE-b, major congratulations, my friend! You done had did it!

    I read the excerpt and will definitely be interested in reading the entire story after you have completed it. You da man, man!

    ~ Stephen
    <"As a dog returns to his own vomit,
    so a fool repeats his folly."
    ~ Proverbs 26:11>

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  6. Congrats on nano!!! Good job :)

    I think my nano will be marketable. I think it will end up around 65k, and that should work for YA. I'm hoping to give it some time and a lot of polish, then I'll re-evaluate.

    I know nothing about Christian lit, so I can't help you there. Good luck with it!

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  7. Okay I really like your novel concept. Also, does the title come from "I have it in me so much nearer home/to scare myself with my own desert places"? I teach that Frost poem to my second graders each year, it's a fave.

    And i'm #57!!!!

    I don't think the Christian themes will do anything negative--just deepen the story and its sense of purpos.

    And thanx for joining my blog :)

    Litdiva.blogspot.com

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  8. Litdiva:
    thank you for joining me as well-- see, the method usually works!

    I did read the Frost poem several times for some inspiration--it is a beautiful poem. But actually the real inspiration came from a sermon at church the morning of 11/1, when I still hadn't come up with a precise idea. The pastor was talking about the Israelites in the desert for forty years and I saw the phrase "A desert place" in one of the verses he was talking about and bingo! I knew right there I had the title to my novel.
    I talk about the process I went through on my post of 11/2. It's weird how ideas come sometimes and then they just start to flow.

    Hope we can continue to network and be mutually beneficial.
    Lee

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  9. congrats on the win. I don't think I have anything to add to the Christian themes discussion. You have excellent advise here in the comments. I like what Simon said and CKHB has linked to a great article for thinking and chewing and general consideration. All the best with your book as you edit.

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  10. First I want to say Congratulations for accomplishing this. I work from home full-time and still can not get up the nerve or the patience to successfully pull this off. I think I would give up in less than 1000 words. And you've managed to blog and live life too. You are the man.

    I think the gritty edginess of your story is what's needed in today's Christian market. It's a fresh approach and often Christian writers (generally speaking) tend to cushion their themes afraid of offending the readers. A true soldier of the Lord in modern times have lain in the trenches and come up exalted to tell their story. It's real, it's raw and as a writer never be afraid to colour outside the lines. Don't know if my lame opinion helps but it's how I feel.

    Congrats again and thanks for stopping by my humble place :)

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  11. Life, Uncharted -- Thank you for your support.

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Lee