November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Each year this event prompts me to do two things.
- I like to promote my novel: Pleroma. It is book one in the Nectar Trilogy. It is the 10th Anniversary of it’s writing!!! Learn more here.
- Aspire to finish Book Two of the Trilogy: Amo.
More backstory for those who are interested:
This is a special moment because it is the 10th Anniversary of Pleroma. I rebooted my life in 2008. Our house church had died in Las Vegas at the beginning of 2007. We moved our family back to Minnesota and I vowed to never be a pastor again.
2008 was a lean year. I was trying to rebuild my freelance art studio in a new state, so I had very little money, but more time on my hands than I had ever had. So, with no money and some extra time, I decided to check one thing off my bucket list. I wrote a novel for my kids.
The novel was a story that I thought of in college (way back in the late 80s). I started writing it in 1990 and then got afraid. My kids grew up hearing the story. It became a family pass-time to add to the plot line. We all knew the main characters like they were part of our family.
I started writing in secret at the beginning of the summer in 2008. I didn’t want to tell anyone in case I failed again. I had done some research on novel writing and discovered an important discipline: Set a daily word count goal.
1500 words a day seemed doable, so I began.
Each day I got up early in the morning, had my Quiet Time devotions, then settled in to work on Nectar (that was the title back then). “I wonder what will happen today?” I thought, and then my fingers started clacking.
It became a grand adventure. Some days I pumped out 4,000 words in exhilaration.
Half way through the summer, Lona, my wife, accidentally discovered the file on my computer.
“You’re writing Nectar?!?”
“I want to read it!”
My adventure party now had two.
Each day I wrote the next section, then went to work in my studio downstairs to attempt generating an income. Inevitably Lona would come storming into my studio at some point during the day, “You can’t just leave me hanging like that!”
It was so much fun. We made a great team. I would write, she would edit.
80,000 words and five months later–ten years ago right now–the first draft of Pleroma was finished.
We printed four copies at Kinko’s and gave it to the kids for Christmas.
I was hooked.
I submitted the first five chapters to an editor from Scholastic that I met at a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators National Convention in New York City. She read the chapters and then asked to read the entire manuscript. That was pretty cool (oh, and by the way, she was the editor for the Hunger Games…sweet).
She politely rejected my novel. Oh well.
I then took my manuscript to a group called The Book Architects. I met them at a Minnesota Independent Publishers Association (MIPA) convention. They loved the story and encouraged me to hire a professional editor and self-publish.
So I did.
You can purchase the book in print form or in Kindle format on Amazon.
Then I wrote book two.
Lane Gray is the main character of Pleroma. I wrote that book from a 3rd person limited point of view. That means I write as a narrator, as if the camera was hovering just above and behind Lane’s head. Yet, we only get access to Lane’s perspective of the story. We can only hear his thoughts and see what he sees.
Book two involves more characters in the plot, but I felt that I needed to stay within the same limited perspective as book one. We only get access to Lane’s little brother Josh, and Lane’s female counterpart, Heather, through Lane’s perspective. Lane and Heather are not in the same dimension for most of the story, so we can only know what is happening with Heather and Lane’s father, Owen, through sporadic communications via the Interdimensional Transponder Device.
This limitation means that Lane is the only truly developed character in the story. It’s a boy’s adventure and all the other characters stay fairly flat backdrops against which Lane grows. This is not a bad way to tell a story, but it did seem a little stifling as I wrote it.
Then something happened in my life. God called me back into ministry in 2010, and then called me to pursue a PhD in 2011.
I had to shut down my freelance art studio, and shut down my novel writing.
Amo sat as a first draft, getting dusty in my drawer.
She didn’t die, though. She was just in suspended animation. I would check her pulse from time to time.
One day, while I was teaching about Hebrew Poetry to our Confirmation students, I took a bold move and told them about my novel. Several of the kids wanted to read it. One girl in particular told me that she really liked it. She is brilliant and an avid reader, so I took that as a sincere compliment.
Then I took another risk.
I asked if she would be willing to read the rough draft of Amo.
Then she changed everything.
Her first comment was that she actually liked it better than Pleroma. Sweet. Then she slammed me.
“There is not a strong female character in this story,” she said.
“Hmmm,” I thought, “It is a boy story. Is that bad?”
“No, a boy story is fine,” she responded, “but it would be even better if there was also a strong girl!”
Then my mind opened. What if I pulled a Rick Riordan move (Percy Jackson Novels) and toggled between character’s perspectives? Then I could tell the missing parts of the story and develop Heather as a full character with her own arc.
The problem was that my life was crammed with full-time ministry and full-time PhD work. I was writing every day, but it was definitely not Young Adult Fiction.
Last year I found myself in a new call, a new city, a completed PhD, a continual nagging to revive Amo, and the advent of National Novel Writing Month. I did start writing Heather’s story, but I didn’t get far.
Perhaps this year will be different.
Would anyone reading this be interested to read Heather’s story with me as I write it? Let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading and celebrating this tenth anniversary.