Having a few hours to kill in an airport and on a plane, I made use of pen and paper to begin planning my NaNoWriMo project. As I understand the rules, prework is okay before November 1st, and since I've never written a novel before, I thought I might at least explore a few ideas.
Yesterday, I saw a televised interview with John Irving. One things that Irving said that intrigued me was that he doesn't start writing his book until he knows the last sentence. It was, he explained, the only way he knew how to begin a plot driven work.
I'm not going to doubt a best-selling author's process, just as I would not doubt someone who had written several unpublished works, because I really haven't a clue how one writes a book. What I think the follow up questions should have been, though, was this: how often does that sentence remain the last sentence?
I wrote a last sentence and it isn't too bad as sentences go, but it really was no more than a prompt. It started me thinking and, although it was a workable sentence, potentially a poignant last sentence that with lots of work might be within reach of Fitzgerald's green light Gatsby close, I quickly realized that I probably didn't have a book. So much for that idea.
The fun part about imagining is not knowing where your brain is going to take you. I continued to write down ideas, drifting away from my last sentence. Soon I had several seemingly unrelated ideas, but I saw a pattern revealing itself.
So, while I think that there is more to the pattern to be found, and that the discovery will come in the writing -- and more certainly in the editing to follow after Nov 30 -- I now have a core idea. Nature, time and place will figure prominently in this project. What I'm envisioning is a series of loosely related stories. I've outlined the chapters and have given them working titles. The titles will serve as writing prompts. For about half of these, I already know either the characters or the plot. Some characters will be recurring, but in some chapters, place and nature/season will be what ties the piece to work as a whole. It may not work out, but it's where I'm headed right now.
I don't know why I feel compelled to put the working chapter titles here, but in some ways it makes it seem more real. If I focus on one of these a day for the next 30 days, I should have at least something of length, even if not of significance by the end of NaNoWriMo. This list is in a vague thematic order that is more or less seasonal, but it is not the order that I think that the book will actually be.
The convertible and the tree
A Tale of a Bird Watcher
Flower and Patio
If It's Worth Building
Home is not home if there are no oak trees
Fireflies and fireworks
Putting Dad to Bed
The Greenway Trial
Deerhunters and the Tea Party
Selling the Farm
5 Cents or The Dr. Is In
I'm Older than John Glenn
It was colder than this in 1875
As I actually get some words down on paper, I might be willing to share some of this with readers I trust. Let me know if you're interested...I probably will not look at specific criticisms until I'm ready to begin editing in December, but I'll take any encouraging words throughout November.