NaNoWriMo CheckPoint, Week One, Or: Fun With Secondary Characters



So how we doing after Week One? Hitting our targets? Not hitting our targets? Hopefully you’re all still plugging along. For those of you who are struggling, remember, while the goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days, the real task is to find a daily writing routine. So whether it’s the average 1,667 words per day needed to reach 50K by 30 days, or just 500 words a day (or the 716 I’m averaging, although I’m really averaging more than that – I’ll elaborate more here in a few), or you’re cranking out 2,000 words, the point is you’re writing.

And if you’re churning out 2,000 words per day, good for you…you bastard.

As I expected, I got off to a late start. I didn’t get started writing in earnest until Tuesday the 5th, although I did manage to jot a good thousand words or so in my notebook while I was out of town. Since Tuesday, I’ve written just under 6,500 words, and it’s helped that I’ve used Rachel Aaron’s planning technique before I begin writing. I guess if I wanted to argue semantics, I’m averaging 1,786 words in 4 days of writing. But we’re not arguing semantics right now, are we? My pace still places me well behind the desired 1,667 words per day, but no matter: I’m very satisfied with the content.

Finding time to write has been the challenge, like I’m sure it’s been for you as well. Luckily for me, I work from home, so there are pockets of time during my day where I can take advantage of some free time. An hour here in between conference calls, or the hour I pencil in for a lunch break. Once my daughter goes to bed, and my wife and I spend some time together – she also works from home – I’ll use a couple of hours at night to write. I get perhaps three solid hours a day to write. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that time.

I’ve never had luck coming up with titles I liked, but I did come up with one for my newest NaNoWriMo work-in-progress: “Joe the Lion.” If the name sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the title of a David Bowie song. The book’s title has to do with the progression of the character, I think. There’s the meaning of the song’s lyrics, which allude to emotional numbness, which is something “Joe” struggles to overcome. So, yeah, I’m cribbing the song title for my book’s title. If David Bowie’s going to sue me, I’d be honored.

I’m having a lot of fun with a secondary character in the story. Joe, our protagonist, leads a dull, emotionally bland existence as an office drone, and he escapes his existence via his cultish obsession with a fictional TV character named Derek Slate. His hero is a playboy detective with supernatural abilities. Think some Sherlock Holmes mixed with James Bond and splashed with a little bit of Doctor Who, and you’ve got Derek Slate. He’s a dapper Englishman with a smashing wardrobe, a quick wit, a brilliant intellect, a vicious uppercut, and an encyclopedic knowledge of the supernatural. Oh, and he happens to be immortal. He’s a TV character, after all; we can make him as implausible as possible, and that comes into play throughout the story.

Derek Slate is both Joe’s Inciting Event and the person that guides him through his journey. Derek’s motives will be infuriating and sometimes cryptic, but they will mean something to Joe, and it’s up to Joe to figure that out. It’s all magical realism, of course. Anyone who’s ever read Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Haruki Murakami knows how these two authors often use a supernatural secondary character – a ghost, a talking cat, a golem, something to that extent – to push both their main characters and their stories along. Derek’s been a blast to write so far, and he’s really the engine that’s driving this story.

It helps to visualize who your characters look like. If (and that’s a big if) a film version of “Joe the Lion” were to be made, then Derek Slate would be played by this man:

Tom Hardy. I think I just made thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of women VERY INTERESTED in my novel. YES!

So I’m really not certain I’m going to reach the 50,000 word mark by November 30th, but I’m very excited about how this story is unfolding as I’m writing, in the pockets of time throughout the day and in the couple of hours at night when I write.

More details to follow. In the meantime, happy writing, and remember, it’s all meant to be fun! Share your NaNoWriMo stories in the Comments section, won’t you?


24 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo CheckPoint, Week One, Or: Fun With Secondary Characters

  1. I’m pretty sure you’re going to hate me. You probably already do. After figuring I wouldn’t start until late, I got excited to start on the 1st, so I jammed through that editing that needed to be finished, decided I couldn’t work on the election all day anyway, and dove in. Giving myself permission to write has worked very well (that and the fact that I’m essentially unemployed, a state which I’ve been disguising by saying that I’m writing full-time). I’ve steadily ramped up my word count (aside from a couple of short days around the election, when I really did have to work, and then recover) until I hit 2855 today.

    On the down side, I’ve developed tendonitis in my wrist. It came on so fast after I started this novel that I have to figure that either it is a) a message from the gods telling me that I should stop writing crap and get a real job, or b) a pre-existing condition that I exacerbated by writing more. Naturally, in the proper NaNo spirit, I am opting for b).

    My biggest fear is that, outline notwithstanding, I’m doing my usual and diving too straight for the end of my story. I need about 80,000 words, and I’m just under a quarter of the way there, but I think more than a quarter of the way through my pathetic excuse for an outline.

    Sorry about the dissertation. I’m obviously in major word-spewing mode!

  2. Last night I passed the 25K mark. This makes me appreciate being a full time writer. I can relate to doing NaNo while working because I did two years of it before retiring. Fit in the words when you can. Good luck to everyone. Gus, I’m happy to hear you’re getting in writing time. I love what your commenter, Rebecca, said about giving herself permission to write.

  3. Hey, Gus, I can only speak for me as far as being a full-time writer. I retired from my job in education after twenty-nine years of dreaming to be a full-time writer. Hang in there. Dreams do come true. Some dreams anyway. Sometimes. (Don’t confuse this with supporting myself on full-time writing. Far from it.)

    • A friend of mine uses the yardstick established by somebody or other (can’t remember now and too lazy to look it up) that you’re a pro when you make enough in a month to pay the power bill. Our power bills are pretty low, but I’m still not sure I’ve made it. But for the last several months writing is the only paid job I’ve had, even if it hasn’t paid much!

      • I’ve heard the yardstick rule before. One of my author friends says you can say you made it when you cover the writing expenses, book covers, editing, etc., and have money left over. Paying bills would be even better. 🙂

          • For a long time I did want to quit my job and write full time, but I couldn’t. After twenty-nine years of working in elementary and middle school, it was time for me to go. Now I work longer hours.

              • I, on the other hand, work part-time at the local library for a little better than minimum wage. I very nearly quit this fall, but have decided to go back, for the books and the company. I’m still going to work on branching out with writing-type work to match my income there.

  4. “a playboy detective with supernatural abilities”—Nice. Add to that the immortality, and I think you’ve created a really intriguing character. Good luck with your continued writing!

  5. That supporting character, Slate, sounds like a real…uh…character. Actually Gus, the whole concept sounds great! I like it! (Everytime I say that, I’m reminded of Woody, from Cheers, when he was touting Veggie Boy, a “delicious” blend of broccoli, kale, and cauliflower.)

    Yeah, I didn’t get started until the 8th (except for the first sentence and idea, and the first sentence has since been adjusted), so it’s not a bad average for the time I’ve been able to put in. I’m not killing myself, but I’ll complete the book, and if able to sit, undisturbed, and hunker down for a good couple of days, heck, I may even catch up!

    I look forward to your novel…really like the direction it’s taking.

  6. Pingback: NaNoWriMo Checkpoint, Week Two, Or: Getting Sick is No Excuse For Not Padding Your Word Count (Also…a Giveaway!) | Out Where the Buses Don't Run

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