Well, so much for that “I’m going to write more this month” statement. But I’m on it now!
Most people think of October 31 as Halloween. I, however, think of it as the last day before November, the eve of NaNoWriMo. So in honor of the impending mad dash frenzy towards the starting line, I decided to relive the ghost of novels past and save the talk of my current novel for later, since I’m sure in the coming month you’ll hear more lamenting about my characters and nonexistent plot than you’d ever want.
1) Blue Suede Shoes (2005)
This was my very first NaNo novel, written during my sophomore year of high school. It was about a girl in her mid-twenties—basically, the girl I had imagined myself to be ten years in the future—who finds out one day that someone has published a book under her name and picture. She has to learn to deal with her newfound fame, while also trying to figure out who the mystery author is. It was a fun novel, full of cute romantic fluff, silly grown-up antics like getting drunk that I didn’t entirely understand at the time, and a random appearance by a group of shirtless German athletes in elevator. I also blatantly stole one of my favorite fictional characters, Nick Gautier from Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter series, and made him my main character’s boss. It was pretty swell.
And now it’s excerpt time!
Jane said goodbye to the Germans as she stepped out of the elevator, and they replied with a trio of auf wiedersehen’s.
She hoped that no one would decide to walk by right as she left, since a single woman leaving an elevator of smiling shirtless men might be the subject of idle gossip about the office.
Luck, however, was not with her, as at that exact moment, Nick happened to walk by, wearing a large cowboy hat. One of his eyebrows arched as he looked at her.
“How long have you had a harem, Jane?” he asked. “And why wasn’t I ever told? I’ve heard that it can be a very interesting experience.”
She laughed. “Like I would ever let you join my harem, if I had one. Those just happened to be a couple of German guys going to some meeting or something upstairs.”
“A couple of shirtless German guys,” he corrected.
She shrugged. “They’re athletes. I’m sure you take off your shirt when you work out.”
“Actually, I wear spandex.”
Ah, Nick. You were my favorite character to write, but alas, you were not mine.
2) Sixteen Going on Seventeen (2006)
My second novel was a tale of high school life for four friends at an all-girl’s high school. (Autobiographical, much?) This was actually the novel I think I enjoyed writing the least—I had too many characters all trying to talk in first-person, I couldn’t give any of them decent plotlines, and I actually spent a good portion of the novel writing another novel that one of the characters was writing (about thieves!). But somehow, for a novel I spent most of the month hating, it’s actually got some pretty hilarious parts, including an entire chapter where someone’s (clearly irresponsible) mother accidentally gives all the girls Ambien because I wanted to write a ridiculous dream sequence.
I turned back to the emo kid, hoping that his match-flicking antics would at least provide a meager form of entertainment until my bus decided to show up, and caught him staring at me again.
“What are you looking at?” I snapped.
“Nothing,” he said. “I was just wondering if maybe you wanted to sit down. Your backpack looks heavy.”
“I’m fine,” I said shortly.
“Okay, just a suggestion,” he said, starting to look slightly irritated himself. A moment later, he pulled another match out of the box, lit it, and flicked it at the phone. It landed in the coin return.
After watching him for a few minutes, I realized he was pretty damn good at hitting the phone every time.
Finally, I asked, “Do you just sit here every day doing that?”
“Yep,” he said. “This is what I spend my entire day doing. I don’t have any hobbies and I don’t go to class. I’m hoping to win a match-flicking scholarship so I can get into Harvard.”
And a later scene…
“You put a what in our locker?!” Wendy practically yelled at Eliza.
“Shh,” Eliza said, looking around furtively, as if hoping no one had noticed them, which of course, was a completely unanswered prayer. Half the hallway had turned to look at our small group clustered in the small alcove the wall at the sound of Wendy’s high-pitched yell. Eliza gave them a quick smile and then glared at her lockermate.
“Keep it down,” she hissed. “I could probably get in a lot of trouble for this.”
“Then why did you do it?” Wendy said back, her voice lower, but not as quiet as Eliza’s.
Scarlett and I watched them, both of us slightly amused on Eliza’s part, but also sharing Wendy’s worry.
“Well, the student handbook doesn’t say anything specifically against keeping a hamster in your locker, so I just figured, you know, why not test the system?”
That hamster later escaped and wreaked havoc in a teacher’s hair. And no, I’m not sure why all my characters had super British names.
3) 8 Semi-Deadly Sins (2007)
This was another attempt at a novel based on my friends from high school. The title came from a discussion we’d had about how procrastination was one of the seven deadly sins of high school, and it was meant to be clever and cute, but as you can see, it mostly just ended up being stupid. By this point, I had actually worked the whole all-girl’s school concept into a series, so this was meant to be one of the sequels to my 2006 novel. It got drastically off-track somewhere in the middle and sort of turned into a self-insertation Jonas Brothers fan fiction (BECAUSE I WAS INTO THAT AT THE TIME OKAY), where we all ran off and had adventures in a tour bus, and, to be completely honest, I think the story actually got a lot better when I started going down that track. One of those examples of how much writing is influenced by the author’s passion for the subject, I guess.
Sadly, this excerpt takes places before the boy band appears.
Several hours later, the three teenagers were sitting around the kitchen table again, joined by Dominique, Aiden, and Eliza. The Life board was set up on the table, though not all the pieces that should have been on it were. Eliza was currently under the table, retrieving the red car that Claire had hurled at her in a fit of outrage over having to pay a speeding fine. Ariel, laughing hysterically, was latched onto Claire in an attempt to keep her in her chair so she couldn’t aim a kick at Eliza’s head.
“I was almost going to be the cop!” Claire complained as she finally stopped struggling and let her body flop in the chair. “This kind of thing always happens to me. I think I’m just cursed.”
“No,” Dominique reminded her, “there was that one time you won three games of Sorry in a row. At Wendy’s Christmas party, remember?”
Claire coughed. “I cheated…”
“How do you cheat at Sorry?!” Dominique asked incredulously.
“Sleight of hand?” Claire said.
“You did not stick cards up your sleeves!” Eliza said, looking appalled. “And while we were all admiring that shirt, too!”
4) Personal Improbability (2008)
The first novel I wrote in college was based off characters from an online role-play forum that I joined my senior year of high school. The group, called Blackstone, was created by several of my friends who I had met in middle school through the Newsies Mailing List (proof that I have always, always been a fangirl), and as much as I loved it, was really not much more than an X-men knockoff. The premise was a high school for kids with special powers, and my novel centered around three of the characters I had created: Gavin, Christian, and James Sway, brothers who could manipulate probability. Once again, my plot was lacking, but I loved writing this novel because I already knew all the characters so well.
Here’s a bit from a back-to-school dance:
“You’re beautiful! You’re beautiful! You’re beautiful, it’s true!”
“Seriously, Gav? Have you ever listened to the rest of the lyrics in this song?” Trace asked in disgust. “They’re so full of sap and shit about being in love with someone you can’t have. It sucks.”
Gavin frowned. “Really?”
“Yeah, it’s the stupidest—” Trace began, but he was cut off by Callie coming up to him with a shy smile on her face.
“Hey, Trace… do you want to dance? I love this song.”
“Oh, um… sure,” Trace said sheepishly, avoiding looking at Gavin and James who were now trying to hold back their own laughter.
Callie smiled happily. “I knew you were going to say that.”
Trace followed Callie to another corner of the room, one that was slightly less crowded, shooting the two Sway brothers an evil look over his shoulder as he left.
5) Nobody Man (2010)
Ah, 2010. The year I thought I was smart enough to write a con novel. (Hint: I wasn’t, and still am not.) After taking a break from NaNo in 2009 because of how stressful it had been trying to balance school and writing the previous year, I missed it too much by 2010 to let November slip by without even trying. And try I did, but this was actually the first year I didn’t win NaNo, petering out by a sad 20,000 words. It was fun anyway, and I ended up with a decent start to a story about a young con man, alias Jesse Ferrari, who’s forced to partner with a college girl who is obsessed with detectives and is studying to be a forensic psychologist. Also involved are her ex-stripper-now-bartender roommate and said roommate’s cougar grandma who had an evil iguana.
Jesse likes to swindle dumb rich kids, but he’s also the master of the small con:
His pancakes arrived, steaming hot and smelling delicious. It would be a shame to waste them, Jesse thought with a mental sigh, but sometimes you had to do what you had to do. He thanked the waitress and allowed himself a single bite of the pancakes to give her enough time to return to the kitchen where she wouldn’t see him.
Once she was gone, he surreptitiously pulled out a small pill bottle from his pocket. Opening it deftly with one hand under the table, he tipped it gently until he felt one of the dead flies fall into his palm, then closed the container and re-pocketed it.
After taking another casual glance around the diner to make sure no one was watching, he dropped the fly onto his plate and then poured some maple syrup over it. Then he sat back and waited.
The waitress reappeared in a few moments with a coffee pot, and he waved her over to the table, putting on a slight grimace and his most sincere tone of voice.
“I don’t want to cause a huge deal or anything, but it looks like there was a fly in the syrup pitcher.”
The waitress looked horrified at his words and even more disgusted when she saw the insect residing in the pool of syrup on his plate. “Oh my God, I’m so sorry about that! I don’t know how that could’ve happened. I’ll get you some more pancakes right away, and I’ll get rid of that syrup.”
“Thank you so much, sweetheart,” Jesse said, handing her the plate. She headed back toward the kitchen quickly, looking like she was about to give someone a very stern talking to, and Jesse sat back in his chair.
If all went as usual, she would return with another plate and offer not to charge him for it, a proposal which he would accept gratefully. A whole meal, all for the price of a small fly he had caught the day before… not bad, by most people’s standards.
This was also the first year I made a cover for my novel!
6) Odd Girl Out (2011)
Last year’s novel followed the trend of writing about my own life in a fictionalized and fantastical way. The story followed a girl in her senior year of college, trying to deal with school, love, her dad’s remarriage, and her freshman brother’s hard-partying tendencies. I basically wanted an excuse to write about the antics of my friends at the radio station before I graduated and slowly started to forget all the crazy shit we got into and what it felt like to be in college. This novel also got pathetically behind, and I finished the month with only 12,000 words, which is a little sad because my main character didn’t even get to meet her love interest. His name was Marius! It was going to be great!
But, unfortunately, Arwen spent most of the novel wrangling drinks from her brother and chasing down lost sandals. (And yes, you read that right. Her dad is a huge Lord of the Rings nerd. Like I said, kind of based in reality. Luckily, my dad backed off on that one.)
“ARWENNNN!” The back door burst open and my brother stumbled through it, laughing—more like cackling—and spilling a large splash of PBR out of his can. He knocked into the trash can as he turned around, almost tipping it over, and slammed the door behind him so hard that the rack of nonperishable foods shook menacingly.
“Dude, slow down,” I said, jumping out of my seat and abandoning my own drink to the table. “How many drinks are you on?”
“Dunno,” he said, his breath hot and smelling like weed and beer on my ear. “A big number.”
Somehow, that didn’t surprise me. I was pretty sure he’d already outnumbered me, party-wise, ten-to-one, and classes hadn’t even started yet. How depressing.
So, tomorrow (well, tonight at midnight—less than an hour!) I begin my seventh year of NaNo and hope that I will be able to break my losing streak and get back into the habit of winning. Maybe this’ll even be the novel that I end up finishing, revising, and publishing! (Optimism, kids. I’m a pro at it.)
Happy November, and I’ll see you in the morning!