Saturday, September 3, 2011

How I wrote my novel

How I Wrote My Novel, mostly sitting at my computer, plus a relatively small portion of it by hand in a succession of notebooks …

I just signed a contract with MuseItUp Publishing for my tween sci-fi novel, “Relocated,” so this feels like an appropriate time to talk about how I came to write it.

I am a 'way back sci fi fan. I selected Robert A. Heinlein's “Farmer in the Sky” for my tenth birthday, and at that point I was already a fan. I've continued to read copious amounts in the many years since. In spite of that, I had backed away from attempting to write my own sci fi story.

Last September I decided that I would write a sci fi novel for NaNoWriMo, which takes place every November. I decided to write a novel for kids, and I made my main character fourteen. Then I had to plan my novel and build my world. Or, in my case, build my world and plan my novel.

I'm always telling myself stories in my head, and some of them took place on alien planets. I'd done a fair amount of thinking about my alien society, and a couple of things had really sparked my imagination: shared responsibility and mutual support rather than rules and laws, and four-person relationships. I did a lot of thinking about the spiritual life, diet, landscape, literature, art, and music. Why, you might ask? Because I like that stuff. In fact, I ended up writing 30 poems “by” an ancestor of one of the characters in the book as part of Robert Lee Brewer's November poem-a-day chapbook challenge. Eight of them ended up in the novel itself. I also wrote a story, sort of a folk tale that I managed to work into the book as well.
For various reasons, I wanted my aliens to be close to humans in appearance. I made them tall, slender, and dark skinned. I wanted them to look distinctive, and I was tired of pale, beautiful aliens. I wanted dark, beautiful aliens.

After that, I made notes about the novel itself. I made notes about the setting, my main character's motivation and character arc. Most of that was good. I ended up renaming his father, as an early reader told me his original name was too much like that of the main character. The plot and most of the secondary character went out the window once I started writing; I kept a lot of the direction of the story, but the details ended up quite different. The nature of the plot that Keth uncovers changed. The adult characters involved in the Terran/Alien romance changed. Dad's character changed, as did that of his boss, Brad. All of the kids other than the main character were new. I had fifteen plot points, I threw all of them out the window.

And after Nano was over, I let the novel sit until January. Then I started revising. And revising. And revising... but, hey, that's what happens when you start writing without much of a plot outline.


Karen Cioffi said...

Peggy, Congratulations on the book contract. And, great story on how you got it published! It's always interesting and helpful to know how other authors go about writing their books.

Charmaine Clancy said...

Great to hear how others are getting their work done.
Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

Donna McDine said...

Hi Peggy:

Congratulations, I'm thrilled for you. Hard work pays off.

Award-winning Children’s Author
Write What Inspires You Blog
The Golden Pathway Story book Blog
Donna M. McDine’s Website

Magdalena Ball said...

Fascinating information - I've always wanted to do NaNeNoMo, but could never carve out such a big block of uninterrupted time (lucky to get an hour a day lol). I'm drawn to sci-fi as a writer, but my dreams are all non-alien, so it's fascinating to see your process.

Margaret Fieland said...

Maggie, I spent the month totally immersed in the universe of the book -- I don't think I wrote anything that wasn't connected with it in some way. It absorbed all my writing time. Still, the most difficult part of the whole thing was figuring out what to write.

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