I really want November to hurry up already. Firstly because I’m ready to just get down and write, but also because I’m afraid of running out of generic jokey sub-titles for these NaNoPlaMo posts. That said, the title this week is no accident, since it’s time to reveal exactly what it is I’ve cooked up for this year’s contest.
As many of you guessed from the end of the last post, my novel this year is to be called The Nightlands. Let’s digress for just a moment though. Hop in my time machine all the way back to 2011. I was embarking on my first ever NaNo, living on pizza and noodles in a barely habitable student house, and after eleven days it was going badly. The story at the time, Children of the Elder God, was an epic with several concurrent plotlines and random subplots spinning in and out. It was also a bit rubbish. The first chapter’s here, though it makes me cringe to link to it.
I knew that if I was ever going to finish a novel, I’d need something a little simpler. That’s when the first spark of The Nightlands was born. It was easy enough, a meld of my love of vampire fiction and the pulp sci-fi I grew up with. My plans for NaNo immediately abandoned, I set to work on making The Nightlands a reality. But I’d learned nothing. Once again, I didn’t plan at all, just sat and expected the words to come to me. Even worse, I started looking at things like the Twilight franchise again, swearing that I would return vampires to their monstrous throne, safely away from Edward Cullen’s pretty scowl. I was writing for the wrong reasons, and the project fell by the wayside.
And yet, it’s stuck with me. Even after all this time, I can’t resist thinking about it a couple of times a month. The Nightlands is the writing equivalent of the cute girl who got away because I never grew the guts to chase her. So, I return to it again. Fully equipped with everything I learned during last year’s contest, and immersed in my favourite vampire fiction for a dose of positive inspiration.
So, what have I got thus far? Well, I start small and work my way up from there. Once I’ve got the idea in mind, I write an elevator or tweet pitch. It has to explain the idea concisely in 140 characters or less.
“Vampires attack a small town in the permanent night side of the planet Dust. The survivors must race towards daylight before being killed.”
Not very catchy, huh? But it explains the core of the idea and even introduces a setting, all in 138 characters. It removes any of the extraneous stuff and really boils the whole thing down to the bare essentials. Unfortunately, it’s pretty dry. Which is why next I’ll expand into a blurb. Usually found on the back of a book, deep scientific research (looking at a few of my paperbacks and counting) has revealed a blurb is usually between 100 and 150 words. So, here goes.
“Welcome to Dust. A way station between an overcrowded Earth and the rich outer colonies, and final stop for Earth’s poorer refuges. All her life, Rebecca Sanders has lived and worked in Dryside, the inhospitable desert that forever faces the sun. But times are hard, the work has dried up, and Rebecca is forced into the cold depths of the Nightlands, an expanse cast in eternal darkness.
She finds herself in Gaslamp, a town on the very fringes of society, but it’s not only the strange denizens of the town concealed by the darkness. A cabal of vampires are making their way across the Nightlands, and Gaslamp is their next target. If she’s to live, Rebecca will have to put her trust in the enigmatic stranger Hargreave in a frantic dash for daylight. But how do you survive the night in a place where dawn never comes?”
147 words. And a first draft. Admittedly, it’s not pretty, but it expands the scope. On top of the overall location of Dust, we now have the two smaller locations of Dryside and Gaslamp, as well as the two lead characters, Rebecca Sanders and Hargreave. In further revisions, I’d like to find a place to include the name of my lead villain too, but a cabal of vampires will do for now.
Up next: Fleshing out characters and a full page outline as NaNoPlaMo races on.
Further adventures in Writing: