This is one in a series of profiles of our National Novel Progress Month authors and their works in progress. If you'd like to submit your own interview, please fill out the form, and I'll be in touch!
Today's author is Crackerdog Sam (that's his hobo name), my own dear partner and co-parent and a fabulous writer. I interviewed him over pizza with the kids — any insight and hilarity in wording are his, and any errors in transcription are mine.
|Sam hopes he finishes his WIP in time to read it to the kids.|
What project are you working on?I am attempting to flesh out or "write" [quote marks his!] the second half of my novel that is currently only outlined. Basically, I'm trying to get a draft out of it. It will be spotty with chunks missing or places that are rambling on too long, but just to get something concrete on the page.
What's the tentative title?I'm not telling.
What's the genre?I guess it's a mashup of old-time high adventure with modern conveniences. It follows the same rules as The Princess Bride, but it's set in modern day, which is to say it's romantic and adventurous and has a lot of fantastical creatures, but it doesn't have magic or the paranormal. I don't know what genre that is. There is also no villain, so it's kind of a mix of The Princess Bride and Spirited Away.
What's the target audience?It's for 8- to 14-year-olds.
How long have you been working on it?I think it's a year and a half. I've been working on the story for a year and a half. I've been working on the universe for ten years.
What do you hope to accomplish this NaNoProgMo?I basically realized that I have around seven chapters of material. To finish that in a month would be a chapter every four days, but I quickly realized I'm not actually going to get that far. So my goal is to just be consistent at not goofing off and trying to get something out. I've got probably about a chapter, or two half-chapters, under my belt so far this month, so I guess if I end up with six half-chapters by the end of the month, that'd be good.
My ultimate goal is to finish the first draft and then start in on the second draft, including rewriting the first half to reflect new information I discovered about the characters during the second half. I have absolutely no idea how people write a whole novel in one month.
What excites you about your project?You should have asked that first. Now I'm too depressed.
What's the most challenging about it?The most challenging and the most exciting things about it are the same thing: It's discovering the characters. What's most annoying is discovering the characters after I've already written the plot and have it conflict with it and then have to rewrite it. But it's exciting to get to know them deeper, even though it necessitates additional writing to bring that character across in the rest of the story.
I'm definitely glad I've moved on from polishing the first half, because I would have just been pulling apart what I already had. I'm definitely learning a lot about my writing process to the point that I'm hoping additional drafts won't take four to five years to put together. I spent the first six months of trying to churn out completed chapters as I went along, but I realized I need to write something more substantial than an outline but less complete and more chunked up than a start-to-finish chapter so I can develop the characters. The character development doesn't happen during the outline, but if I try to polish a chapter, I'm going to have to tease apart all the transitions and connective tissues to fit in new information later on. So if I can write chunks of conversations and then stitch it together later with scene setting and tone, at least that's where I think my best process is now.
I was trained by writing articles to be laborious about getting the perfect first draft, and then it was done. Now I realize that no matter how awesome I think my writing is, a detailed draft is at best a first pass, and I'm going to need to go back to deepen it anyway.
Are you working on any other writing projects?This is the first book in a series of seven novels. I'm thinking through how the characters and events tie together throughout the entire thing. I don't have any separate blogging or other projects right now.
Are you seeking traditional publishing or planning on self-publishing?I'd like to pursue an agent and traditional publishing, if I can find someone who's excited about the series. I can definitely see my books as a movie series at some point.
Do you have advice for other ProgMos?I don't know how other people approach this kind of project. As I understand it, it's usually some kind of word count or specific end goal in mind. I've found that I can't work that way. My criteria is basically, Did I avoid the temptation of goofing off, and did I follow my process and not get bogged down in crafting a single sentence or idea? And as long as I do that, I'm happy. So if someone else is feeling like the word count thing is not helpful to them, they could do it differently. But other people seem to do better at churning out quantity than me.
Whenever I do this, because I've done other hunkering-down motivational things, I think, I just have to keep this up forever, and then I'll be done. The problem is that I'm not getting enough sleep; it's not actually sustainable. I do have other interests in life I'm trying to tune out to do this, so I don't know going forward if it makes sense to scale down the amount of time but try to get something done, or just be lazy for a month and then pick it back up intensely again in January, and then be lazy in February, or something like that. To alternate between hardcore work and downtime, or to just try to keep up the consistency but in smaller time chunks.
I think those last are questions we all ask ourselves as authors. What works best for you for making progress? Is it hard-and-fast dedicated bursts, or long-term consistency? And do you prefer specific word count or time goals, or do you look just for continued progress in whatever form? Remember, if you want to participate in a future profile, fill out the form and I'll be in touch!
Crackerdog Sam (that's his hobo name) is a full-time work-from-home parent.
He shares both the working and the parenting of six-year-old Mikko and two-year-old Alrik with Lauren and tends to write in the very early-morning hours before Alrik gets up.
He has been writing since childhood, and he and Lauren met while working on the college newspaper and bonded over a creative writing class.
NaNoProgMo Photo Credit: abcdz2000 / sxc.hu