The blog for The Solitaire Rose Experience. Yes, the blog revolution is utterly and completely over. However, I haven't figured that out yet, so I'll be listing articles, ideas, links, and other internet debris. Now, you can join in! And be mocked mercilessly!

Monday, October 29, 2007

My NaNoWriMo let me show you them

For the last 6 years, I've participated in NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. It's a challenge where you sign up and say you'll write a 50,000 word novel in a month. It's not about writing literature, it's about word count, but I've learned that as I write, I become a better writer. Hopefully, next year I can get some publishers or TV/Movie people to agree with me, but that's not the important thing this month. It's about writing. It's about the story. It's about sitting around a campfire and trying to tell a story that comes from your soul.

So, this year, I'm writing my third zombie novel.

I've had the plot in my head for a while. How long? Well, let's just say that in 2002 when I first did this, I wrote a novel based in a world that was 5 years after a movie like “Night of the Living Dead” or “Dawn of the Dead” because I was fascinated by the idea of the human race no longer in charge, and struggling for life. I also wanted to write the kind of satire/social commentary that Romero excels at. I also want to point out that this was at least two years before the zombie comic “The Walking Dead”.

I also wanted something easy to write for my first “Novel in a month”. I was working full-time at a group home, and while I was the director, I had to pull a lot of the overnight shifts because overnights are the hardest shifts to fill. The house didn't have cable, a DVD player or fast internet (just dial up), so I would bring in my laptop and surf about on the web, write and fight to stay awake. A horror novel with zombies would be easy to write, I could concentrate on characters instead of plot, and I had a quick plot crutch:

Anytime you don't know what to do next, zombies attack.

It was a big hit, and the people who read it, loved it. Two years later, I wrote another one, since I had thrown in a lot more characters and plot than could be covered in 50,000 words and wrote up a nice sequel. I had a nifty device where I shifted back to before the zombie attack (years before LOST was on the air, mind you) so that I could show that the fall of civilization was fast, but not TOO fast, and it was exacerbated by humanity's silly political conflicts and relentless selfishness. I had three of four subplots that I purposefully left dangling, and again, people who read it loved it and wanted more.

I wrote two different novels in the last two years, a poker based love story and a conman/crime story in a fantasy wrapper, but people wanted the zombies.

This year, I'm not at the group home any more. I'm in an all new career, an all new life and I feel like everything in my life has changed in the last 12 months. So, I'm writing a “comfort novel”. Back to the zombies. My survivors: Ray, Hunter, Jen and Amanda will be there, but the story is going to start through the eyes of another character. Characters who were seemingly dropped in the last two books will be showing up, and in a way, the first two books will feel like they all led up to this.

I decided to do this novel about two months ago after reading stories about how the military was being turned over to religious people, and people who weren't a certain KIND of Christian were finding themselves cut out of the decision-making process in the current administration. Like any good satirist, I'll be taking this to its absurd, logical extreme because the point of a good zombie story is that humans are the TRUE monster, the zombies just bring it out.

I have three of the main “story beats” in my head, but am leaving enough of the story up in the air to find it along the way. I know where it starts, where they are going, but as in the first two novels, I have no idea if the characters will get there, which ones will survive and, what will be left of them mentally.

My “hero” has been through a long series of traumatic experiences. Our new character has grown up in this world, having been only 15 when everything fell. In fact, people who were adults and starting lives in the old world are starting to become scarce, which is a significant story point along the way.

Today, on my way to work, I was writing up character backgrounds for the new people who will be in the book, and clarifying how the returning characters will react to what they've been through and a few story points became shockingly clear. A major character is going to die. It's not like I say down and said, “I need to shock the reader and let them know that no one is safe”, it's more that as I was writing about them (nope, not giving a clue) I realized how they will react and what will happen.

That's the beauty of NaNoWriMo and TRUE writing to me. I'm not in control of the story. I start it, I populate it and then the story does what it does. Every year I'm amazed at how it takes a life of its own and I can simply write what happened.

“Why did you do that?” people ask writers all the time.

More than once, the writer says “Because that's what happened.”

Believe them.

I'm going to write about my journey on this book. Think of it as your own personal DVD commentary for it. When it's done, I'll be putting the first draft on my website. I hope you take some time and read it.