I recently completed April’s round of CampNaNoWriMo (Camp National Novel Writing Month), a 30-day program for writers to complete a significant writing project.I decided to embark upon the CampNaNoWriMo process journey as a personal challenge, but being an overachiever who doesn’t think things through, I decided to do a full revision for a novel I wrote in 2012.
Yes. Fifty thousand words. In 30 days. While studying for finals, exploring Scotland, and planning a trip to Rome.
Diving back into the world of Death by Society – about the aftershocks of my protagonist’s suicide attempt, which was brought on by bullying – was something I had been looking forward to for a long time. After the attempt, the popular crowd that caused most of her torment decides to make amends, leading to her become part of their group for a while. It’s mostly a character study, and an examination of some social issues that teens face today.
The best part of the revision was that my characters were pretty much solid, from my mentally ill, technologically and academically gifted protagonist to the brash poet who is the main antagonist for part of the book. The plot, though, needed to change. It was awful, and made no sense. I wrote and rewrote, changing the storyline five times before I had something I wouldn’t be ashamed to publish (and even that story changed chapter by chapter as I created it).
I wrote the first draft of Death by Society while hunkered down in my house during the summer. I was sick most of the time, and the only thing I did was write. This time, with schoolwork and travel plans to distract me (oh, yeah, and that one-month deadline), I knew I needed to switch things up. So I looked to various places around Stirling for creative inspiration, and found some pretty amazing results.
My first stop was Refresh, a restaurant/coffee shop located on the University of Stirling’s campus. I’d been to Refresh a few times before and had always come away with a good meal. But now I was looking to create interesting characters with notable habits. Although my main characters are strong, I needed better secondary ones. And the best way to get good characters is to see real people in action.
As I brought to life a scene set in a school cafeteria, I quietly studied those around me. When I search for a new character, I don’t necessarily look to replicate the entire person; rather, I look for a distinctive look, or habit, or even food choice. While at Refresh, I found students who did their homework while constantly checking their phones, a distracted girl who fumbled with her purse so much that her change scattered across the floor, and a group of friends who paid more attention to each other than to their hot chocolates. I wove their behaviors into my characters, bringing a touch of reality to each one.
After working in the cafe for a bit, I tried to write about a party as I surrounded myself with the calm of nature. Or, at least, I tried to. The sun beating down on my computer forced me to give up on my lake writing excursion after only five minutes. I retreated to the university’s cafeteria area, where an Accepted Students Day was being held. Truthfully, the hustle and bustle was a much better place to get in the party spirit. Although, at my paper party, nobody drove through the place with a bicycle. But Stirling’s quirky like that sometimes.
My next stop for inspiration was on a train. I booked a ticket to Edinburgh, Scotland’s historical heart. Thanks to the spotty Wifi connection and the fact that I literally couldn’t go anywhere for an hour there and back, I worked furiously and knocked out a chapter in two hours. That was definitely my most successful excursion, although it wasn’t particularly inspirational.
What I found was my three go-to places actually served different needs – inspiration, immersion, and concentration – during my writing journey.. As I move back to the United States this summer and work on my third draft (and fourth, and fifth….), I’m sure I will find new places in my hometown that serve the same purpose. For now, I’ll settle into Stirling and continue creating new worlds for my four main characters while exploring my own world.