Once Upon a Time

NaNo 2014Hello, the lagoon. Welcome to November! And you know what that means…NaNoWriMo!

Since I am 1.) not in the middle of editing or revising a novel at the moment and 2.) new to the East-Central Florida area, I have not only thrown myself straight into the fires NaNo this year, but I have committed to attend several of the Brevard County kickoff parties and write-ins in order to make a few friends and meet some like-minded folks. You know…people who just LOVE writing so much that they can’t seem to think about anything else.

What I’ve forgotten about fledgling writers, though, is that sometimes they would rather just talk about writing instead of actually writing. *sigh* Like teenagers who are in love with the idea of being in love.

And after the jaded “Get Off My Lawn” exasperation in me subsides, I remember what it was like. The dream of writing. The romance. The what-if. Knowing that if I just found that key to the walled garden, the secrets of the publishing world would reveal themselves to me.

Yes, the writing was romantic…back when I snuck it into work breaks and scribbled ideas on the backs of receipts at stoplights. The words were stolen moments in a hidden season, and in them I was transported to the worlds of my wildest dreams.

These days, I mostly feel like a masochistic junkie. I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to.

But it was so lovely to be there in that study room at the Titusville Library on November 1st, surrounded by people of all ages and hearing the joy in their voices as they talked about their ideas. And talked. And talked. And talked. Like lovesick schoolchildren. It was sweet. And I did my best to keep my temper when all I wanted to do was shout “DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE SECRET IS? JUST SHUT UP AND WRITE!” but I didn’t. Because I was in a library. And because writers sound horrible when we say things like that. I remember being a nobody at a major book wholesaler and sitting in on a plethora of author talks, those annoying writers who made writing a novel sound so easy just because they’d done it.

I won’t lie to you: That first one is the hardest. My first finished manuscript was a product of a NaNoWriMo, but I fell short of the word count because the story ended after 36,000 words. It was still the most words I had ever written in a month until then, and it was the first time I had actually FINISHED anything that long. The year was 2004.

The next manuscript I wrote was Enchanted.

Last month–ten years and three novels later–IĀ  completed the umpteenth revision of that first manuscript. It’s now 77,000 words long and my agent LOVES it. (Keep your fingers crossed.)

That idea I had back in 2004? It was a great idea, I just didn’t have the best tools. But I had inspiration and gumption and the desire to finish something, and I did. I was able to use what I learned in the last decade and go back and make that first story the best it could be. That sort of thing happens in this biz…even Jennifer Crusie didn’t sell Bet Me until a decade after its completion, and that’s my favorite one.

Sometimes, the time just isn’t right. You’ll know it. You’ll feel it. But you have to finish that first manuscript AT SOME POINT. Why not now?

My NaNo project this year is one of the first novels I wanted to write. Now that I (mostly) know what I’m doing, I feel I have what it takes to tackle the project.

The title? Aletta: The Ugly Princess.

When did I come up with the idea? 1990. I was fourteen years old.

I wrote “Aletta” as a short story: handwritten, on 35 pages. I edited it down to four typed pages (with no margins) for a peer grading assignment in 10th grade English and the class loved it. When I was twenty I tried to expand the idea into a novel, but I just couldn’t. I didn’t have *it* just yet. Granted, I didn’t realize then that I could achieve *it* if I just kept on writing…but Aletta was too close to my heart. I couldn’t allow myself the freedom to fail.

Now, I will never forgive myself if I never try.

I’d love to know…who else had crazy story ideas when they were a kid, once upon a time? Would you ever be tempted to go back and write about them? Or have you already?

And what are YOU working on for NaNoWriMo?

Dream big.

Dream big…and just keep writing.

11 thoughts on “Once Upon a Time

  1. Oh I love this post!!! I started a Christmas story when I was about 9 or 10. I never finished it but I think about every holiday season. It’s about a little orphan girl and an angel who befriends her. I really should go back to that. šŸ˜‰

    Good luck with NaNo!!!!

  2. I loved the early days of writing. Once upon a time, a friend and I decided to write a space thriller. Our heroes told each other they were ready to fly into outer space, packed their lunches and walked into the spaceship. The end.

    Failure? Not even! It’s one of my fondest memories of my time with that young man.

    1. I love the realism of this piece, how you dealt with the very important issue of What to Eat for Lunch. These are the kind of things that can lose readers if not done right! See…you’ve always had it in you.

      My best friend Casey and I attempted writing romantic scenes when we were in seventh grade. In hers, Casey made sure to point out that her heroine’s bathing suit cost $100. (“I didn’t buy this $100 bathing suit for nothing!”) My scene was also set on the beach. I wanted my couple to walk barefoot on the sand…but what were they supposed to do with their shoes? So my hero buried them in a box under the boardwalk where NO ONE WOULD FIND THEM. Because lost shoes would totally have ruined the mood.

      1. Lol lol lol! You guys are cracking me up! In fourth or fifth grade, my best friend and I decided to write a book about…twins. What else? They were identical, of course, and their names were Michelle Rochelle and Rochelle Michelle. Recently, my daughter wrote a very good story called “The Spotted Leaf.” My son immediately decided that he wanted to write a story called “The Ninja Leaf.” It pretty much, sadly but adorably, plagiarized his sister’s story, with a few key changes: the protagonist was a boy instead of a girl, and the leaf was “ninja” instead of spotted.

  3. “Now, I will never forgive myself if I never try.” ~Alethea Kontis
    And to quote Iggy Azalea, “Praise Jesus, Hallelujah.”

    Exactly, Alethea! We have to try.

    You are so funny. Your honesty makes me smile.

    I’m not officially NaNo’ing but I’m going to complete a 10,000 word story by November 21st about a man in uniform for an anthology I really want to be included in.

    Here’s to your Aletta! Cheers and kisses!

    PS–That’s some “A”!

    1. YOU CAN DO IT, CARLENE! *cheers*

      Yes, I have always been a fan of the Scrawly First Letter, as illustrated on the “Once” here. This A was a precursor to my SUPERFANTABULOUS AUTOGRAPH!

  4. Yay for NaNoWriMo. Yay for Alethea! And yay for everyone doing NaNo. It’s nice when you know you’re not in the boat all by yourself.
    Off to get more of a word count since the past two days have sucked. I logged on earlier, and it said the rate I was going I would finish by Dec. 9th. ugh. Now I’m back into November again. haha.
    Good luck to everyone!

    1. Heh…according to current stats, it says I will finish in April 2015. BETTER GET CRACKING, I GUESS. šŸ™‚
      Love you, Kim! xox

  5. Lovely post! I can’t wait to read Aletta: The Ugly Princess someday soon. šŸ˜‰
    I have several ideas from childhood, some that I’ve tucked away indefinitely, but most of them are percolating in the back of my brain and ruminating in idea notebooks.
    For the first time in several years, I have opted out of NaNo, but it’s okay. Instead I’m concentrating on editing and revising what will be my first FINISHED novel, which also happens to be an idea I’ve worked on since I was twelve. My goal is to have it ready to send to an editor by December, so fingers crossed.

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