Status Update

A friend asked me recently how far along I am in my story. I told her the same thing I’ve been telling others. I figure it’s going to take me a good year to get to a passable draft.

Then she asked me how much of the story I know. I told her I know the whole story. I know how it starts, how it ends and pretty much of what happens in the middle.

I don’t know everything about all my characters. I don’t know where everyone came from, what their family is like or even how all of them look. I know how some of them talk, but some I don’t, yet. If they have back stories worth exploring, I haven’t identified them right now.

I’m not sure where all the different parts of the story take place. Some settings I have figured out and some I haven’t. I’ve spent a lot of time on Goggle Maps and Wikipedia researching possibilities.

I’ll need to add some more challenges for my characters to overcome, but, at this point, I’m not sure what they are. Subplots need to be added. I spend a lot of time studying and refining the narrative arc to make sure the story stays interesting enough to engage a reader and then keep them engaged. There will need to be high points, low points and time to rest built into the flow of the story.

xmas tree1After our conversation (thanks, Nan), I figured out how to describe my progress. Right now, my story is like a freshly cut Christmas tree. It’d been chosen and claimed and is standing, bare naked, in my world. Now it needs lights, all our special ornaments and a star at the top to be the best Christmas tree I know it can be.

Have I mentioned how particular I am decorating our Christmas tree? It’s going to take some time.

xmas tree2Thanks for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog using the link on the right side of the page.

If you’re new here, you may want to scroll down to the bottom of the page to start the story at the beginning. If you don’t have that much time, check out the “About the Journey” tab at the top of the page.

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I’m Going to Camp!

I’m going to camp next month! Camp NaNoWriMo runs the month of April and it’s sure to be fun. It’s a virtual camp, so I can work in a temperature controlled environment, I don’t have to worry about bugs, and I can still share an evening glass of wine with my husband. I’m going to be assigned to a ‘cabin’ with other writers with similar interests.

I’ve requested placement with others who are also editing their novels. All month, I’ll work with writers who are doing what I’m trying to do. Beyond that, there’s talk about campfires, hikes and getting lost. I’m not really sure what I’ve gotten myself into. But then, that’s not the first time I’ve said this during this journey . . .

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Transition

From the beginning of this blog, I’ve talked about the novel I am writing which is loosely based on my father’s experiences. I mentioned that I have to write this as fiction because no one really knows what happened. My father was missing when his boat was found unmanned.

This blog serves as a transition. It is the last blog where I will mention my father. From now on, I’ll focus on building the story as a novel. I’ll talk about characters (not real people) and choosing an ending. I won’t be constrained by facts or reality. I still need to choose venues for many scenes and homes for different characters. I’ll probably use some real places, but I’m likely to create a few of my own.

CharactersThe leading character in this story is a man named Jake Chambers. I’ll tell you more about him as I get to know him. I’ve read some writers struggle naming characters, but so far these characters have pretty much named themselves. While some of them may have started out based on real people, I find they’ve shaken off such limitations and developed their own identities. Honestly, since I really didn’t know many of the real participants, it’s been easy to let them become their own people. I’ll introduce you to them as they come into the story.

Thank you for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

 

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog using the link on the right side of the page.

If you’re new here, you may want to scroll down to the bottom of the page to start the story at the beginning. If you don’t have that much time, check out the “About the Journey” tab at the top of the page.

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Scheduling Time to Write

As I considered committing to National Novel Writing Month(NaNoWriMo), I knew I had a major obstacle. I planned to be out of town for fifteen days at the beginning of the month and then, a few days after we returned, we would drive ten hours each way to spend Thanksgiving weekend with family. And while I believed I could write while I was gone, I also knew I would be distracted by family, friends, and opportunities to play.

I decided the best way to accomplish my goal was to set higher word count goals for the days when I thought I could accomplish more. 50,000 words works out to 1,667 words per day. I set a goal of 2,000 words for most days knowing that some days I wouldn’t be able to write much at all. For instance, the days I flew to and from California, I really didn’t think I could get much done and set a goal of just 500 words for each. While I was visiting family for Thanksgiving, I planned to write a 1,500 words each day since I knew we would want to do other things. For the last day of November, when we would spend ten hours driving, I set a lowly goal of 250 words. On a day when many writers would be hard at work morning to night to finish, I knew that wasn’t logistically possible for me. Committed or not, I knew I couldn’t write much balancing a laptop on my lap in a moving car.

Daily targetI created this calendar as a visual reminder of my plan. The NaNoWriMo website (nanowrimo.org) has a tool where I would post the number of words I actually wrote each day. I also logged my progress in my planner so I could track the days I was most productive. If I did it again, I would add a cumulative word count on each day of this calendar.

The calendar was a sobering visual of the crazy commitment I had made. I certainly had my work cut out for me in November!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog using the link on the right side of the page.

If you’re new here, you may want to scroll down to the bottom of the page to start the story at the beginning. If you don’t have that much time, check out the “About the Journey” tab at the top of the page.

Planning (Just a Little)

24155520_sIn the little time after I returned from my conference, I worked to plan my novel. I wanted to be a planner, but in November I would mostly be writing by the seat of my pants. I knew I had valuable information but I had no road map. I did what I could in the time I had.

The first thing I did was scan all the materials I collected. The originals were old and precious and I didn’t want to damage any of them. Some were already in bad shape and there were a few pages from the log that were folded, partially mutilated, and unreadable. I saved them, but I didn’t try to unfold them for fear I would damage them further. Scanning also made it easy to share what I had with my siblings, my father’s other children.

 

I printed out everything I had scanned. I could have stored it all in Scrivener, but I wasn’t familiar enough with the program then to feel comfortable doing that. Now I realize it would have been really helpful to have everything in one place.

After that, I created a timeline. It was the beginning of my rough plan. At first, I used Excel to make the timeline. I’ve since discovered a program called Aeon Timeline and expanded my timeline there. (Maybe I’ll discuss Aeon Timeline in another post.)

My timeline gave me enough information to create the project in Scrivener. I used those events to make a list of scenes I planned. I knew that as I wrote, I could easily add new scenes that would be necessary to develop the plot.

This was the extent of the planning I was able to do before November 1.

 

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog using the link on the right side of the page.

If you’re new here, you may want to scroll down to the bottom of the page to start the story at the beginning. If you don’t have that much time, check out the “About the Journey” tab at the top of the page.

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The Ship’s Log

shipslog1Once I got home, I shared my excitement with one of my half-sisters, my father’s youngest daughter. At the time, she was visiting with her brother, my half-brother. When she told him what I had, he remembered he also had the original ship’s log from the journey and he offered to share it! Before the end of her visit, my sister sent it to me.

When the FedEx package arrived, I gingerly removed the thirty-seven year old log. After all these years, and significant time in the salt air, much of the glue has dissolved and the log has fallen apart. There is mold on the pages. Some of the ink and pencil has deteriorated, but most of it is still readable.

A ship’s log typically documents navigational and mechanical information. But, it turns out my father used the ship’s log as a combination log of the journey and a journal. I don’t speak “sailor” so I will need help translating some of the sailing passages. The journal-like entries add humanity to the content and when I read them, I learn a little about the father I never knew.

shipslog2Now I had my stepmother’s journals, official correspondence from after my father’s disappearance, letters he sent to his father during the journey, the private investigator’s report, and the ship’s log. No one person ever had all that information before!

But there was still that all important missing piece. How did the journey end? How was my father lost?

Before I started down this road, I shared my plans with my father’s other children, my half-siblings. I assured them what I would be writing would be fiction, loosely based on my father’s experiences. I wanted to be sure I had their approval before I began. Each gave their blessing. Along the way, each has also shared memories and materials. In turn, I’ve shared what I’ve discovered.

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And Then I Found . . .

Shortly after committing to NaNoWriMo, I left town for a week long conference. After the event, I planned a visit a nearby cousin afterward. Since she is the daughter of my father’s sister, I shared my writing plans with her.

As we talked, she mentioned she might have some information that would be helpful. Her mother had been the keeper of all the family documents once our grandfather was gone. When her mother downsized, my cousin took possession of everything.

Together, we went through some of the boxes in her attic. We came upon a treasure trove – letters sent by my father to his father during the journey. There were seven of them and they provided a wealth of information about his route, his schedule, and, most importantly, about his feelings. They are fascinating and will be invaluable to me in my writing. I scanned the letters with my portable scanner.

She also had a copy of the report from the private investigator who was hired by my grandfather after my father disappeared. I wanted to scan that, too, but it was held together by a rusty staple I was reluctant to remove. She encouraged me to take the report and the letters home. I was eager to read everything!