friday5 for November 11, 2016: 2016 nanowrimo edition

I just realized this is the first Friday5 I've done since the summer. That right there is a real measure of how busy I've been. But despite it being such a long time since I've done one, today's Friday5 is not going to be a return to the usual format because we're in the midst of National Novel Writing Month (when you write a 50k novel during the month of November), one of two reasons (the other being that December is crazypants) there's a good chance I may not do another Friday5 until January. Just kidding. Kind of. But probably not... Anyway, for this month at least, I'm making serious writing progress, and sorry, but that wins out over blog-writing. 

So in the spirit of NaNoWriMo, or NaNo as it's more briefly called, here are five things I've learned as a YA author writing her first adult romance for her NaNo project: 

1. I'm writing without thinking too hard about what I'm writing and it's actually working. 

This has always been my biggest challenge when it comes to NaNo, as I'm sure it is for many people. I tend to edit as I write, which means fussing over dialogue tags, finding just the right word, and worrying over whether there's enough stuff going on beyond the dialogue (setting, mood, tone, etc). It's very hard for me to not ruminate on these things as I write, but the first thing I've done every day that I've sat down to work on my NaNo project is to remind myself that when it comes to NaNo, quantity is more important than quality. And it's actually working. I'm not sure if you can call managing to keep up with the expected word count for NaNoWriMo "crushing it" but if you can, I'm totally crushing it. Which feels kind of amazing cause I haven't done that in a long time. I'm writing without worry because I've kept reminding myself that I can go back and fix things later. That's what editing is for and while I've always found it easier to edit as I go, I don't have to. I can crank out words without them being perfect. Things are rarely perfect in a first draft anyway. 

2. My small town somehow feels ready for the big leagues.  

I've been working in the romance industry for the past eight years. I know romance novels pretty well. But this is the first time I've ever attempted to write one and despite how much exposure I've had to the medium, I'm still learning things through this process. I've always known books that fall into a series, with continuity and connected characters, are very popular within the genre, but I always saw those series as something that were extended because they were popular and because they sold. And while that's definitely part of it, I don't think I ever truly appreciated the author's likely compulsion to tell more stories in the same world until now. I've written first books in a trilogy before. I've written books meant to be the first half of a duology. But this is different somehow. When I set out to write this book, I had an idea for a story set in a small lakeside town here in Ontario. It wasn't until I started writing that I realized there's definitely more than one story here. The secondary characters have taken on lives of their own. I almost feel like it's my duty to tell their stories one day too. And that makes me feel like I now get it in a way that I didn't before. Series romance authors aren't searching for stories to tell--the stories are begging to be told. And there's something kinda wonderful about that. 

3. Tone is so important, especially when your story has potentially dark elements.

Aspects of my plot are a bit dark. There's death. There's infidelity. There's family drama. But most importantly, there's love. A lot of love. I mean, it is a romance, right? And I'm finding a big part of my focus with regards to crafting the story is going toward maintaining that hopeful, romantic tone all good romance novels need. It would be very easy to take the plot I've mapped out and turn it into something darker. The same story could easily be a thriller if I tweaked a few things. But one thing I've learned about romance over the years is how important it is to pin down the tone of the genre. And writing my first adult romance has only reinforced that fact a dozen times over. 

4. My adult characters are adult versions of my teen characters.

I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about writing adult characters. Until now, all the novels I've written (short stories of the past aside) have been YA, with teen characters and teen issues. The adults in those books were parents, teachers, side characters. They were never the focus. And now I have this heroine who's 28 and at a serious crossroads in her life and I'm realizing, she's actually not that different from some of my YA characters. Sure, a lot of that has to do with my own voice while I'm writing, but I think it also has to do with the fact that both YA and adult romance have elements of self-discovery to them, of "figuring it out". And I love exploring those themes. One of the reasons I love writing YA is that I love the excitement of first loves and first experiences. Adult romance is less likely to dive into "first" territory, but it definitely explores experiencing something very other for the first time.  The first love to come along that changes you, that makes you see the world in a way you didn't before. I'm really enjoying the writing process so far, and while there are times that my adult characters feel like grown-up versions of my YA characters, I know the differences are what will make this book stand apart--the careers, the adult life problems, oh, and the sex. Not that my YA books don't go there, but this is the first time I'm writing a book that's going to go there. Good times :) 

5. I'm really enjoying writing something different.

It's been a rough road. I know I've written about this on the blog before, but publishing is a journey. For some authors, it's shorter than others, but mine, unfortunately, has been something of a long, winding path filled with very talented editors saying "thanks, but no thanks". It's definitely not easy, and as with all long journeys, you get tired after a while, you get discouraged, despite your best efforts not to. Sometimes it's nice to change things up a bit. YA is still my first novel-writing love, and I have a lot of great ideas for YA stories that I can't wait to explore, but for now, I'm really enjoying writing something different. I feel like it's giving me something of a recharge, one that I desperately needed. I still have high hopes that there's an editor out there who will love my YA novels enough to publish them, but now I have something else to focus on, to hope for. I'm doing the work. I'm always doing the work. And you've gotta do the work if you want to succeed. 

Are you working on a NaNo book of your own this month? If so, I've love to hear about it in the comments and/or friend me on the NaNo site! My username on there is earthcrosser. Happy writing and

Happy Weekend!