Characters, Deadlines, and Nerf bats

I need to find a Nerf bat soon. I may be in danger. Or rather, my legs may be in danger. I may also need to find a cat burglar to steal a baseball bat from someone’s house.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my struggles with a novel and how I’ve decided it needs to be broken into two separate books. So a couple of weeks ago, I told my writing friends/beta readers about this plan. The reaction was mixed, but I stood firm.

“Well,” one of them said, “then you are pitching the first one at the Oklahoma Writers Federation Conference in May.”

I was not sure this could be done; at the time, I had a vague idea of what needed to happen and how it might end, and in the two weeks or so since then, the motivations of the “villain” had changed quite a bit to fit with the rest of the planned series.

“You’ll do it, or I’ll break your legs,” my highly-motivational friend said.

“Um. I’ll bring the Nerf bat,” I said.

“I have a real baseball bat.”

Did I mention she’s allowed to be around college students all day? So somehow, we set a due date of April 1, and I’ve been working on that ever since.

Because here’s the thing:  I thrive under due dates. I’m not a person who can exist without structure and deadlines. I think it has something to do with being in school for ten years and always having something due. I write research papers under duress. Apparently, I write fiction the same way. Some of my best work has been a direct result of facing down a deadline. And I can’t manufacture a deadline for myself; I can always negotiate a push-back. Therefore, I need my writing group to keep me on the straight and narrow. Hence the April 1 deadline.

The first step was to pull apart the novel and separate the scenes and threads into two different files. That was easy enough.

The second step was to look at what I had left and how much would need to be filled in. In the beginning, I thought that I would have more material to work with for Book 1. As it turned out, though, I changed my mind about a few things, namely the ending. That meant I had to delete things and rearrange things. I’m still at that stage now. I just took out 7,000 words worth of scenes last night that needs to go in Book 2. I still have about 59,000 words, but a lot of that is stage direction and notes — so-and-so needs to do this here, we could put that there, don’t forget so-and-so needs to research x, y, and z . . . you get the drift.

The good news? I have 7 chapters that make sense. In the beginning. It’s a good bedrock. I have some strong key scenes that can be strategically placed within the new plotline. And I have amazing characters who are happy to be freed from the restraints I’d placed them in and eager to get on with the job at hand.

My main character, Erin, has been especially vocal and I’ve been writing quite a bit from the first person POV in her voice. These books are written in the third person, but I do a lot of character sketches, and those are almost always in first person. It’s amazing how much the characters quickly develop their own voices and come out of the shadows . . . once I give them that invitation.

So while I’m sitting here now with a concept, 59,000 words that need to be put together into something coherent,  and a deadline, I’m not terribly worried. I work best under deadlines. I think my characters do, too. 🙂 I have faith that they’ll get me through this, and that deadline? Pfft. My betas better be ready to read.

But just in case, has anyone got a Nerf bat?

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