New NaNo Challenge: Starting a New Novel Before Finishing the Old One



No, you did not misread the title of this post. I’m not only breaking an unwritten writing rule; I’m doing it publicly. But before you shun me, listen to my story.

When I first started my current project, I expected it to be a trilogy. Then about halfway through, I changed my mind and tried splitting the story into five parts. It’s going to be a beautiful five-part story (and yes, the five parts has plot significance). Something happened though, while writing a scene involving a forest fire.

The story doesn’t actually end at the end of Part 5.

By the time I reached this point in the story, I thought I could resolve everything in a few chapters, kill off who I needed to and tie up all the loose ends. But if you’re a fairly experienced novelist, you know what usually happens whenever you make a solid plot declaration: characters usually have other plans. And they don’t exactly reveal these plans to you until you’re in the middle of writing a scene, and it all dawns on you at once.

At the point where the first book in my (sigh) trilogy ends (why am I sort of against writing trilogies, personally? Another post to add to my November queue), two significant characters have been kidnapped. Obviously the forest fire has done more damage than death to a few innocent trees. There are far too many unanswered questions. There really was no way I could (a) stop the story or (b) continue on in the same book.

Granted, working on a second book in the same “series” does allow me to dip into the two main characters’ pasts, which is actually kind of necessary in order to explain their present relationship. The readers have to understand the forces behind what drew them together in the first place, and why the same forces that tore them apart are so significant.

The past is, I suppose, sort of a big deal in all three books. To avoid any literary spoilers to books the rest of the world hasn’t read yet, I can only say that memory, or the lack of it, plays a big part in the present. I mean, it’s just not cool when you’re forced to forget your life and are purposely trained to fit into a society where you really don’t actually belong.

The problem with working on book two (called The Unknown, another chemistry reference, because in a month I’ll officially have a chemistry minor and, you know) is that I have not actually finished book one yet.

Insert collective virtual gasp here.

I’ve participated in (and okay, maybe sort of won) NaNoWriMo for the past six consecutive years, making this my seventh year as a participant. I’ve dealt with a lot of challenges the past six Novembers, everything from ACT prep to 30 page literature reviews to scholarship applications. I’m the kind of person that performs better the more that’s on my to-do list. So yes, November may be the busiest month of the year. But it’s always my absolute favorite.

For the record, I do not recommend this “challenge” to anyone. I mean it. It’s messing with my head. I’m flying through the first critical points in my new story, yet my mind is always on book one. While the major plot twists and cliffhangers are there, I have yet to fill in some gaps (I don’t always write in chronological order) and significant small, descriptive detail.

Honestly, I thought working on both simultaneously would make it easier to finish the first book, which I started writing as part of my creative writing portfolio this past spring and continued working on through JulNoWriMo this summer. It’s definitely not easier. Actually, I haven’t worked on Immiscible at all since before NaNo started.

But at least I’m keeping up with my daily word counts on book 2. So there’s that.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

How’s your novel going so far? Tweet me @MegDowell with your progress!

On the hunt for more NaNo tips? Comment with your biggest #WrimoStruggle and I’ll make it one of my post topics this month!


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