If not NaNo, then what?

I’m not doing NaNoWriMo, for reasons I’ve explained before. So what did I have planned for this month’s writing? As I’ve already shared the sneak peek for my November Patreon story, that’s done. It was mostly written in October anyway. So the big goal in November is to finally declare the draft done for We Fit, the sequel to We Three, my bisexual polyamorous erotic romance novel from 2019. It’s been 2.5 years since that was released.

Even though the process has been interrupted by a still-continuing pandemic which forced me to moving in and out of teaching in-person and remote/online, and finally giving up on teaching altogether, that’s more than enough. I’d been picking at the project, writing scenes off and on (tag: We Fit) and exploring the relationship dynamics through different ways they show “I love you” (instead of saying it).

Step 1: Do I have something novel length yet?

How much more new writing would I need? We Three had come in at just over 74,000 words. As a contemporary erotic romance, it was on the shorter side, but otherwise typical. Besides, I was more concerned with this: books in the same series are generally similar length. So I needed to know how close my We Fit draft(s) were to being on par with We Three. I went through all the various files full of one-shot scenes and copied them all together in one file according to timeline order.

This rough file – a story I hoped was mostly complete – was already 68,851 words.

Whew. Okay, I thought, that’s probably only 2-3 scenes short. I was pretty sure I didn’t yet have an actual ending. So, maybe I was closer to finished than I’d first feared.

Step 2: Is everything I’ve got part of THIS story?

Next I had to analyze whether or not every scene I’d written was part of the main plot (learning to live together) or part of a subplot that belonged to the same idea. Scenes that didn’t fit either of these criteria, I would move out of the file to see what’s left.

I wrote a summary of what I thought my story was (for those who attended my self-editing workshop, this is part of step 2). I hadn’t read all the scenes I had, just cobbled them together reading enough to figure out of it came before or after something else. So I spent some time thinking about what I had wanted to say and the actions and emotional challenges I had given them as a couple sentences pitch and then a summary.

Now I had to check whether I had at least all that in this file.

Some of the scenes I had were written during my personal July 2020 writing challenge to write about characters loving and caring about each other without using the words “I love you.” It came from this 100 ways list. I didn’t write all 100 and I didn’t write all of them about Jess/Elena, Jess/Eric, or Eric/Elena, but there were MANY very short new moments between my characters that were all sorts of situations. Maybe, too, these were seeds of scenes I should flesh out depending on where I put them in the final story arc.

Pandemic subplot, yes or no?

Some scenes had incorporated the pandemic shutdown which was weighing my my mind. Besides, Eric is an airline pilot. I thought the airlines shutting down and running skeleton crews and getting bail outs or laying off workers wasn’t something to at least explore? (Just so you know, I also contemplated that period when the 787 Max planes were all grounded because of those two big international crashes.) I live 2 miles from a major international airport. Lots of airline news flows through my newsfeed. It was half the reason I had Eric be a pilot.

Anyway, I went back and forth on whether or not to include the pandemic-related scenes. Some were really sweet caring moments, even if the catalyst for the moment was dealing with PPE or having to fly out when others in the house were out of work. Other scenes were specifically talking about the pandemic.

Deciding I didn’t want to handle the pandemic per se as a specific subplot, I deleted mentions of it. By filling in something like “I’m covering for someone who caught the flu” I kept some scenes and revised most actions and conversations just to be “normal.” I completely removed any scenes that were too entwined with the pandemic to make any sense otherwise. I lost another 3,000 words.


Emotional arcs

Deciding not to immediately worry about being now nearly 10k away from my goal, I went back to consider the story’s emotional arcs as it follows We Three. I reread We Three and reminded myself where the emotional arcs were at the end so I wouldn’t backtrack through already resolved development.

What else was already written?

In the We Three folder where I kept all that story’s partials and inspiration bits, I had a file containing a resort vacation that I did not included in We Three’s final draft. At the time I hadn’t felt that Jess, Elena and Eric’s relationship had progressed far enough to support them doing that in the first story’s short time frame (five months). We Fit had its own vacation (to a different location and from a different catalyst). Perhaps though, if I could not use the setting, maybe some of the conversations or actions could be revised and fill out the We Fit vacation.

So that’s what I did, I revised the We Fit vacation using some of the ideas from the old vacation scene. Then I checked my word count again. After doing all this major adjustment, the manuscript had crept back up to 67k.

Step 3: From bare bones to full-bodied

Now that I had a complete story arc, I am going back to the beginning and examining each scene, one at at time, filling it out with richer details for setting and character. I am revising dialogue based on a better understanding of motivations and goals. I find myself both tightening sentences and adding new ones.

This is a very incremental process. So often the tightening and the additions results in no noticeable word count increase. Revising two or three scenes has increased the word count by only 200-300 words. But I am finally over 70k.

Step 4: Getting to “The End”

I still have some full scenes to write. As I was using my own self-editing guide (a work in progress) that I have shared in workshop, I found moments that need causes, and causes for which I need to write the effects moment. There’s also still some back and forth about the title. I’ve occasionally titled it “We Three: Throuple Trouble” and “We Fit: We Three Together” so as it finalizes, I’ll have to decide which title fits best.

Last but not least: Beta readers

My goal is to send this story to beta readers in December. Everyone else will be emerging from NaNoWriMo and (hopefully) want something other than their own writing to read. If you’re interested in being a beta reader, drop me a note. We can trade beta reading. I’ll read for you, if you read for me.

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