I’ve struggled with procrastination my entire life, and I also routinely have knock-down, drag-out, paralyzing fights with my inner editor, so I’m a HUGE fan of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo). The deadline and sense of accountability to my fellow NaNo participants is exactly what I need to power through a rough draft of a novel. I’m under no illusion that the novel I barf out during those thirty days in November is fit for public consumption, but it’s perfect for me because I’m actually one of those weirdos who enjoys editing. All four of my manuscripts are the result of NaNoWriMo and are in various stages of the revision process.
A Fair to Remember (2006 NaNo – YA horror)
Pitch: Although afraid of almost everything in real life, Zadie loves horror movies and novels, so she can’t wait to explore the new haunted house at the fair. Unfortunately, the only way to do that is to tag along with her obnoxious neighbor and his friends. The good news? One of those friends is her crush Hayden. Too bad she’s too scared to talk to him. Soon Zadie has other things to worry about when she becomes convinced someone is stalking her. The guys dismiss her fears as paranoia fueled by the reports of missing girls on the news -- until someone attacks them in the haunted house. Now Zadie must discover hidden depths of courage if she and her friends hope to make it out alive.
Inspiration: Like Zadie, I’m a shy gal who loves all things horror, so I pulled a lot of inspiration from myself. Also the SC State Fair takes place right before NaNo, so my fascination with the fun and freaky aspects of the fair made it the perfect jumping off point for a horror novel. It was my very first attempt at writing a novel, and I actually teared up when I typed ‘The End’ in the early morning hours on that last day of November in 2006. I couldn’t believe I’d actually finished a novel, and that euphoric feeling of accomplishment was amazing.
Status: I revised it several times the following year, but was eventually distracted by new and shiny projects, so now it’s been languishing ‘in a drawer’ for several years. As my first effort, that’s probably where it should stay as the official practice novel. The last time I read it, I cringed at the many novice mistakes I’d made. But at the same time, I think the core story is strong, so now armed with more writing wisdom, I hope to take another swing at it at some point.
The Hunt/The Drama Queen Who Cried Wolf (2007 NaNo – YA thriller/mystery)
Pitch: The truth shall set you free. Whatever. We all know the way things happen in our heads is so much better than reality, and Breanna Lugner is definitely a legend in her own mind. So when the sixteen-year-old finds a man murdered in the woods, she knows the entire school - heck, the entire town - will be awed by her tales of bravery. One problem: when she leads the police back to the body, it has vanished. She’s now a legend all right . . . but as a liar desperate for attention.
Determined to clear her name and, oh yeah, bring a murderer to justice, Brea uses the annual video scavenger hunt to investigate her suspects. But little does she know that the killer is also hunting her, and Brea must finally separate fact from fiction if she hopes to save herself and her teammates.
Inspiration: Three of my high school friends were also ‘Christmas babies’ like me, so for our 18th birthdays, we had a joint video scavenger hunt party where all of our friends divided into teams and filmed ourselves completing silly tasks my dad had concocted from his warped mind. It was so much fun and one of my most vivid high school memories
Status: An earlier version of The Hunt made it to the quarter-finals of the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition where I got a complimentary Publisher’s Weekly review that said, “Brea's voice is fresh and funny with snappy dialogue that fairly bounces off the page.” I’m currently revising The Hunt based on feedback from beta readers, and trying out the new title The Drama Queen Who Cried Wolf.
The Final Legend of the World of Dungeons and Fantasies (2008 NaNo – YA adventure)
Pitch: Kate and several of her classmates are kidnapped on the way to a ceremony to recognize the best of the best from their high school. Turns out they possess the characteristics of common video game archetypes (Mage, Ranger, Barbarian, etc.) and are soon thrust into extreme situations based on best-selling fantasy games. Kate and the others will have to learn to combine their skills in order to survive long enough to win the game.
Inspiration: From the very first version of the Nintendo console my siblings and I got for Christmas when we were young up to my current Wii, I’ve loved playing fantasy/adventure video games like Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda. This idea started out as a spoof of all the common elements of those games, but during the writing, it turned into an exciting adventure.
Status: This is still in the scary first draft stage. One character even changes gender about fifty pages in, and there’s no surgery or magic involved - I just changed my mind about the character. But there are some exciting action sequences and plot turns I can’t wait to revisit.
As much as it pained me to do it, I skipped NaNo 2009 because I was working on my movie, Saying Goodbye.
Prison Pups (2010 NaNo – YA contemporary drama/mystery)
Pitch: Frankie blames herself for her mother’s death and punishes herself by picking fights and squandering her potential. To stop her downward spiral, her dad forces her to help with the program he runs at the juvenile detention center in which boys rehabilitate dogs scheduled to be put down due to behavioral issues. While helping to save the dogs, Frankie meets two boys who will change her life forever.
Inspiration: I’d read a number of articles about programs in prisons where the inmates and dogs help rehabilitate each other, which started the main plot rolling around in my mind. But it was so different from my usual thriller stuff that I kind of tried to ignore it. The plot, however, was stubborn and kept nagging at me, so NaNo was the perfect outlet to exorcise the story from my brain.
Status: Turns out the idea does not work how I envisioned it in novel form (too many tedious moments with dog training described in detail), but I think it’d make a great movie and look forward to rewriting it as a screenplay.