This morning I awoke about ten minutes before four o'clock. I gave the dog a good hug, a scratch behind the ears, and then stepped outside with her into the cool morning air. Which lasted about three minutes until a neighborhood cat belled by its owner--maliciously, I think--tinkled by the fence line and successfully sent my lovable, and for the most part quiet, pooch into a canine frenzy. Suffice it to say, I rounded up my dog with a few sharp whispers and together we walked back inside. Her genetically curled tail stood almost erect with pride.
The coffee made, I then went about the task of lining things up to sit down and work my magic on the keyboard. Today is Day 2 of the 2011 National Novel Writing Month, or affectionately known as NaNoWriMo to those who have participated in the past. Two hours and fifteen minutes later, my daily quota almost finished, I wrapped things back up and started with the task of waking children and preparing for another day. I'm happy to report that I am still on track with the project. By tonight, I will have passed my quota and moved my work-in-progress bar a little closer toward the ultimate goal: fifty-thousand words in thirty days.
While it may be easy for others--I have read somewhere that Stephen King sits down to write ten pages each day--for me writing a novel in this timetable doesn't happen without some planning. Two years ago, I made daily walks, mapping out issues and whole scenes in my mind. I had a good idea of where the novel wanted to take me before my fingers ever typed out the first word. This year, I didn't engage in daily walks, but I still had the mind working through scenes and issues prior to the first of November. I even drove to the office supply store last week to purchase a dry erase board, a tool I find indispensable for my style. It allows me to brainstorm ideas and to jot things down and erase them with ease. On Saturday, I made an initial sketch of the village for my novel, identifying some of the quirky places therein. All told, I believe I have put some serious planning into this novel like I did with the previous one, and I believe the dividends of my labor will pay off in the end.
This is not to suggest that I don't leave room for magic to happen. I do. In fact, yesterday morning I woke up earlier than expected. In that quiet moment between fully asleep and fully awake, I felt the magic stir within me. Short stories that I had started working years ago suddenly clamored for attention. "Hey," one shouted. "You remember me? Maybe I'm not a leading actor, but I can certainly play a supporting role." And thus, the spell began. I considered that story's statement, and then gradually nodded my head, the fog of sleep clearing with each passing moment. Yes, I thought. I think you'll do. And what I originally planned to be a YA novel has now changed into something else.
As writers, our inspiration can come from all sorts of influences: people we've met, conversations overheard, and yes even stories that we've never finished. The thing is to keep our minds open, even if the inspirations appear like phantasms in a dream. Allowing all options on the table is a key step to moving forward in writing any kind of story.