For the past six weeks, I have been writing something new. It's something I was hired by a publisher to write--something super fun that will be published in August 2012. It's a derivative work. Think something along the lines of this:
Except I will share authorship credit on the cover. (Trivia: sci fi veteran Alan Dean Foster actually ghostwrote the novelization pictured above.)
Let me state now for the skimmers that I am not writing a Star Wars novel. The photo above is just an example (and happens to be a book I treasured when I was ten years old).
But this project is very, very cool, I promise.
I am having the time of my life writing it and have learned a ton about both myself and writing as I've worked.
First, since it's a derivative work, I have an incredibly detailed outline with which to work. What I have found is that this has not been the limitation you might think it to be. I actually have a ton of leeway within the outline for my own creative expression. Because the creators of the original work are gracious collaborators, they have been enthusiastic about the new things I have brought to enhance and enrich their story.
Precisely because the original outline is so structured, I have found a huge amount of freedom and energy for creativity. It reminds me of that analogy that Madeleine L'Engle makes in the beginning of A Wrinkle in Time about the strictures of sonnet writing. The form gives you freedom. This is something I have been learning over the past couple of years, but this project has really hammered the lesson home: I will never write without a solid outline again.
Second, this is a project with a very quick turnaround time. Someone unacquainted with how publishing with a major house works might think that since the publication date is sometime next August, that I would have tons of time to complete the writing.
Not so. The publisher needs the finished novel by February 1st in order to get it into the book production pipeline. That means that I need to have a polished draft to the original authors by January 1st so that they can review what I've written and we can make any changes necessary. That means that I need to have a very good draft ready for my few trusted beta readers by the day after Christmas. These brave and generous souls have agreed to read my manuscript very quickly and point out any flaws they find so that I can incorporate their feedback in those last, dark days of December. That means that I need to be DONE by Friday, December 23rd, due to the simple fact that my family needs me attentive and relaxed over Christmas weekend.
Writing a 70,000-word book in 8 weeks is something of a challenge. That is really, really fast. Oh, I know you have all heard about those intrepid souls who pump out 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo--and I respect that achievement. But these 70,000 words need to be a very polished, near-final draft--not the raw first draft that a NaNo participant finds herself with at the end of November.
But I have learned that I can do this. Amazing things have dropped into my way to help me, like this post by Rachel Aaron--which built beautifully on what I learned and described in this post. Granted, I'm not producing 10,000 words per day. With six kids--one still at home during the day--I don't have the 6-7 hours of time that Rachel has to do so. Someday.
But I have been far more productive than ever before. Yesterday I set a new personal record, writing over 7,000 words. I also had time to feed and interact with my family, study scriptures, tidy the house, do laundry, go to breakfast with two fun friends, and read several chapters of a fun mystery novel. I have learned that I can write like a maniac and still have a life. A really great life, in point of fact.
Last, I've learned that I can keep a secret. When I was first asked to be a part of this project, I was so excited that I wanted to shout it to the heavens--or at least post about it on every form of social media known to man. NOT doing so these last six weeks has been difficult! But all shall be revealed very shortly. In fact, I apologize for this post. I know it is akin to my taunting you about how wonderful your Christmas presents are going to be. I know something cool, and you do not--yet. But you will. Stay tuned, faithful friends. Stay tuned.