I’m nearly half-way through the first draft of my work-in-progress and so far, I’m pretty pleased with how my characters are shaping up — except for one. My setting. The novel is set in Key West, Florida, and right now she isn’t looking so good. Granted, I’m rushing through the second act in order to meet my word goal for Camp Nano (and to just get the first draft written so I can revise). But I intended for Key West to be as much of a character as any of the actual people in the novel. Unfortunately, she seems one-dimensional right now.
Anyone who has ever been to Key West (and I have, truly) can tell you that the island is unlike any part of mainland Florida. In Key West, old Victorian mansions have pitched roofs, intricate lattice work, worn wood siding in muted pastels, and double balconies that run the length of the homes. Banyan trees encroach on sidewalks, their massive roots lifting up the pavement. When you walk around Old Town, you have to sidestep fallen palm fronds and wild roosters. It’s sub-tropical with humidity so thick, you swear you could take an ax to it. It’s also one of the ten most haunted cities in the U.S., perfect for a YA novel about a ghost.
And although I’ve been there and have the photos to prove it, I wonder if I’ll be able to fully flesh out the city during revisions. Will I be able to communicate to the reader just how hot Key West is in early autumn? Will I be able to describe the sounds of electric cars and scooters well enough to make it seem real? And how will I ever fully describe Fantasy Fest — the costumes, debauchery, nudity — when I’ve never seen it in person? Will internet research be enough? Believe me, I’d love to go back to Key West to do real-life research, but two small kids and a furlough brought on by sequestration make that trip highly improbable.
So I ask you, fellow writers, have you ever written (or are you currently writing) a book with an unfamiliar setting? And if so, how are you bringing that setting to life? And what made you pick that particular place?
My WIP is like a woefully neglected house plant that I have forgotten to water. In trying to query my finished manuscript, I haven’t been writing much. Instead, I’ve been researching agents, personalizing queries and refreshing my inbox so often, it’s embarrassing.
So the other day, I sat down at reread my current WIP, all 28K words of it. And you know what? It’s pretty awesome for a first draft. Now, granted I haven’t moved beyond 28K words because I have some plot holes that need patching. There’s also an issue with pacing, and for a dual POV, there’s an inequality of word count among the two main characters — but whatev — these things can and will be fixed.
I started the draft during NaNoWriMo and we all know how shitty those usually turn out to be. But this puppy works. It reads fairly clean and has fully-dimensional characters. I missed this manuscript. In the query frenzy, I’d forgotten how much fun it is to create. I’m doing Camp NaNo this April in hopes of writing an additional 20K words. If I budget my time wisely and outline, I could finish the draft before summer. With two kids under the age of three, I’d say that’s pretty good progress.
What say you writers? What progress have you made on your WIPs?
One of my favorite things to do is troll the web reading blog posts on the craft of writing. I’m always wondering how other writers write.
What’s their process? Do they outline? Are they pantsers? Do they use index cards to map out a plot? Do they write shitty first drafts? Are they perfectionists?
I know I should be focused on my process and process alone, but I want to know how others do it. Especially writers who are also parents. And bonus points for being the parents of young kids.
You see, I have two small boys. I don’t have the luxury of anyone being in school full time. My oldest goes to preschool for a mere five hours a week. My baby is attached to my boob nearly 24/7. I credit Disney Junior for helping me get my revisions done on my first novel and as a reward, I feel incredibly guilty about it.
So I ask you writers/parents — how do you write? When do you write? How much do you get done? And karma points for offering up tips and tricks.
I am a writer. It’s not a mantra. It’s just how I see myself now.
I’ve also been an ESL teacher and a YA librarian. But writing is what I want to do.
I guess if I can’t be a writer, I’ll go back to being a librarian. I loved my job and miss it most days. It takes a lot of self-control not to jump behind the circulation desk at my local library and check out my own books. But truthfully, I can’t imagine doing something else now. This is it for me.