I wrote my first novel during National Novel Writing Month 2009. Having started on the 7th November with no plot, no characters – not even a genre – I winged it, and managed to write 50k in just 15 days, much to the surprise of my friends and family (who’d optimistically told me there was no way I’d manage it…).
The novel was called A Sky Full Of Stars. I described much of the plot in my last post, mainly to make fun of it. And a lot of it was just stuck in there for fun – like a planet called Protagonize (after the website), with the inhabitants being named after people I knew on the site. Spook and Elorithryn (Charley and Cathryn) were both in the story. I was in the story at one point. Spook left messages in alphabet spaghetti because that was the NaNo dare for the day. A few of my characters from other stories, including The Protagonize Bus, cameod for a while.
Basically, there was a lot of joke plot.
But underneath all that, and the absolute terrible romance aspect (I was thirteen. We don’t talk about it), I sort of liked it. The aliens I’d created, the Celryn and Telcontar, were pretty awesome. There was sort of a vaguely Christian moral to it, so my parents wouldn’t have hated it so much. It had fairies and ghosts, too.
I didn’t want to just throw it away.
And so I’m rewriting it. Not the way I rewrote Watching, where the plot stayed (mostly) the same (sometimes) but with modifications to POV, characters and sentence structure. I’m rewriting in that I’m taking that concept, of these aliens, and the main few characters, and writing a new novel.
It’ll be tough to write without constantly referring to the old one, but I’m going to try not to, as I’m sure that will restrict me. It’ll also be tough to remember what I’m doing and where I’m going with this, as I rewrote the first 5k a few months ago and have picked it up from there (and typically, hadn’t outlined).
The novel has grown up.
Anna was 14, now she’s 16. She spoke to aliens in a chat room, now she’s got ordinary, real-life friends. Her relationship with Matt starts much more slowly and is far more believable. The Telcontar are called the Talcentor in case I got sued by the Tolkien estate (though that seems unlikely, but you never know). The chapters are longer, the sentences more complex, the stakes higher – it has grown up with me.
I don’t yet know if I’ll change the title too, but any suggestions from those who’ve read the original would be welcome.
Here’s a small example of how much it has changed. The original opens with these words:
Her name was Anna O’Sullivan. At this moment in time, she was seated at a wooden desk by her window, typing something and watching the fireworks that lit the night sky outside. Her brown hair was escaping from her ponytail, and she was wearing a green top with her favourite jeans. She had been born here, in South-East London, and here she had stayed all her life, living with her parents in the house that they had inherited from their parents, because as a teacher and a bakery worker, neither of them had a large income.
Yep, she’s definitely me. I have a green top, I have brown hair, I live in SE London. Okay the last bit’s not true, but still – we can tell she’s me. For a start, I was writing it in that very location, and was stuck for how to start.
The new version currently opens like this (although I must admit, I don’t like it very much, and may change it):
At fourteen, Anna O’Sullivan was not as ordinary as she had been at twelve. And at sixteen, she was less ordinary still. As a matter of fact, it would have been hard for her to become less ordinary than she was at sixteen, because she was about as far from normal as a human being could be while still being a human in essence. If she had known this, perhaps she would have behaved differently.
Yeah, I’m, er, not entirely sure what I was trying to say there.
If you’re interested in reading the original with all its randomness, it can be found here.
PS – Just found a hilarious typo in the original. “At least, she hooped so.” Hooped, did she? How fascinating.