I just finished writing my second novel, and thought I’d share the process with other writers.
As usual with me, the inspiration to write this book came from more than one place. The first is the phenomenal success of Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James. I have read, somewhere, that it outsells the Bible worldwide.
Reaction to it is extreme: people either love it or hate it, with little in-between. I bought a copy for my lovely wife, Roxanne, last spring (really! It was for my wife!) and didn’t get around to reading it myself (and by myself, not on the bus) until this fall. Roxanne read it during our beach vacation this year. A lady in the chaise lounge next to hers noticed it and said “It was the worst book I read in my life!”
Roxanne had to agree. I won’t go into why — there are plenty of reviews and discussions about Fifty Shades’ merits or lack of them. But when I started reading the controversial story, my reaction was: “I can do better than this.”
The second impetus to my second book was National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoMo and NaNoWriMo. Every year, thousands of people (all much younger than me) pound keyboards around the world to write 50,000 words in 30 days. According to the NaNoMo organization, this year, over 340,000 people produced over 3 billion words. Eleven percent got to the 50,000 word goal.
I participated for the first time in 2011, and while I “won,” writing 51,000 words in Walking from the USSR, a novelized memoir of my father in law, I did not finish the story. That’s well within NaNoMo’s rules — to “win,” you just have to write 50,000 words, and it’s perfectly okay to finish the novel later.
Unfortunately, Walking from the USSR is nowhere near done. I haven’t been able to bring myself to finish it. I’ve tackled a couple of chapters, done some rewrites, but there is something holding me back.
I decided that I was going to complete a novel in November 2012, and why not prove I could do better than EL James.
I decided to write the opposite of EL James’ oeuvre. My 2012 National Novel Writing Month project would be a parody of Fifty Shades of Gray: One Shade of Red.
Succeeding in NaNoWriMo requires simply writing 50,000 words of a new novel. You cannot begin early. But the NaNoMo organizers encourage writers to do prepare before the start date.
Preparation for any writing project means having a clear understanding of what you intend to communicate — the basic message — and a good outline.
The idea: Since One Shade of Red would be the opposite of Fifty Shades of Grey, I did a quick read of EL James’ book and some of its reviews. Here’s what it boils down to (my apologies to both people in the world who have not read it yet):
Anastasia Steele, a naive, 22-year-old virgin (getting into the incredible immediately) falls for Christian Grey.
Christian Grey is the ultimate fantasy man for the 21st century western woman: he’s
- handsome, even beautiful (James writes this word over and over again)
- indescribably wealthy with his own jet
- incredibly young — a self-made billionaire at 27
- has a deep, dark secret (women apparently both love and hate this in a man)
- and, the biggest attraction of all: has a deeper, darker problem — something that Anastasia (and vicariously, the audience) can fix.
The hero of One Shade of Red is Damian Serr (as improbable a name as Anastasia Steele; bonus points to anyone who figures out what it means). He’s a naive university student with little-self confidence.
The object of his passion is Alexis Rosse. She’s
- believably wealthy, having inherited her late husband’s investments
- about 30 years old (ladies never say)
- confident, athletic and sexually aggressive
- and best of all: has no problems, no dark secrets — NOTHING TO FIX.
The outline: this was easy. I followed Fifty Shades — well, more or less. I added some other ... temptations for the hero, Damian, just to make it interesting. And I left out the transcriptions of emails. There are a few text messages, because young people send a lot of texts. (They must, because I see my son’s cell phone bills — and pay them.)
The writing process
Following the rules, I started writing Chapter 1 of One Shade of Red on November 1. The word count went up quickly. To write 50,000 words in 30 days, you have to average 1,666.666 words per day. I made a spreadsheet to track the length of chapters as well as the number of words I wrote each day. Some days, I did four or five thousand words.
I blew past the 50K mark by November 21. By November 30, I over 63,000 words, but not quite a finished story.
I finished the first draft on December 10. To be honest, I haven’t done a full word count, but I estimate it around 80,000.
The mirror, warped
When I asked my my wife, Roxanne, to have a look, she said: “This is a lot more graphic than Fifty Shades of Gray!”
I had a quick read of some of the more ... passionate scenes of EL James’s first book. Then I took another look at mine. I have to admit: I did get a little carried away. Okay, really carried away. (Splashes cold water on self.)
Naturally, the next step is a lot of rewriting. I intend to cut a lot. I did not intend to write porn (really! I didn’t!), but steamy romance — the same level of smuttiness (is that something you can measure on a scale?) as Fifty Shades of Grey. I think that the final manuscript will be back down closer to the 50,000 word level.
Yes, I did write some very detailed descriptions of sex. But why bother writing fiction if you can’t have fun doing it?
Scott Bury is a novelist,
editor and journalist living in Ottawa, Canada. His articles have
appeared in magazines and newspapers in Canada, the US, the UK and Australia. He is also the founder
of Independent Authors International. (http://iauthorsi.org)
His first novel, The Bones of the Earth, is published by the Written Word Communications Co. His blog, Written Words, can be found at http://scottswrittenwords.blogspot.com.
In : Guest Posts
Tags: fifty shades of grey nanowrimo writing authors books scott bury
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