When I announced I was participating in National Novel Writing Month the same month I was launching my book, several people commented that they were impressed (and were probably thinking, boy is she crazy). It was a bit crazy, but I am so glad that I did it!
(Yes, I met the 50k mark, although I’m certainly not done drafting Closed Hearts.That’s what December is for.)
Having to chase that line every day forced me to remember – in the middle of possibly the zaniest marketing month of my life – that writers must write first. This is quickly becoming a platitude, but it takes on a whole different meaning when people are actively adding your (as yet unwritten) book to their TBR pile on Goodreads.
Before starting to draft Closed Hearts, I did a substantial amount of plotting. Of course, it’s a sequel, so some of the character and worldbuilding work was already done. But I’m finding the sequel just as challenging as the first book, because new elements, characters, and story arcs have to be built from the ground up, just like in the initial novel.
There really is no short-cut in novel writing.
But I have found that plotting ahead of time does substantially increase my drafting speed. Adam Heine, bless his well-charted heart, has shared data on how plotting has sped up his drafting speed. Zoe Winters has a great post about trying to speed up her writing process. I don’t have the data to prove I’m any faster when I plot ahead of time, but before I sat down to draft Closed Hearts, I had 13,831 words of outline written, plus another 5-7k of notes (on top of all my notes for Open Minds). That doesn’t count the additional outlining I did for Unnamed Book #3. There was one point during drafting the first half of the book that I had to pause and do some more worldbuilding to get through a sticky plot point. But overall, I was able to mostly crank out words because the storybuilding had already been done.
There were times this month that it was difficult to write, simply because the siren call of marketing was so strong. I was just sure that any incremental minute, hour, day that I spent trying to reach new readers would bring in more sales. I was like the greyhound who chases the rabbit around and around the track, only in this case, the dog actually gets the rabbit – marketing efforts do result in more sales. Just imagine how hard the dog would run if he actually caught that dang rabbit every once in a while!
Which is why NaNo was so important to me this year. It kept bringing me back, reminding me that the most important thing I should be doing is writing the sequel. Every minute, hour, day I spend creating new material is a minute, hour, day I am closer to releasing the next book. And the next one after that.
This isn’t a sprint around the racetrack. The bell rings to signal the beginning, but the chase never ends. And the most important marketing event I can create for my book is to release another one. I’m building a backlist, writing works that I hope readers will enjoy not just this month, but next year and the year after that.
But only if I write them.