Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Novel Evolution - NaNoWriMo 2013

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I've had to put a lot of extra effort into this year's novel. And extra effort, let me tell you, is hard to come by right about now.

However, I love writing and I have some great ideas for a novel. Thus, I'm still going to attempt to wing it. For those of you who know me well, I doubt you're surprised.

But, you ask, why does novel plotting take so much work and effort? I mean, don't you just sit down and write?

Not quite.

Here's a peek into my personal process of Novel Evolution:  

1) The Brainstorm: Finding a Plot

Sometimes inspiration just drops from the heavens into your lap. That's what happened with my current work in progress, The American Dream. One evening I went to sleep with no story ideas in my head whatsoever, and no real drive to find any at that point, either. But when I woke up the next morning, there was a full story already plotted and arranged in my head. I planned to write The American Dream this year...but God had other ideas.

When I realized it was not yet time to write The American Dream, I had to play hide-and-seek with the idea of a new plot. I thought about another modern-day novel, considered reworking When We Reach the Sunset, and even thought about doing a modern-day story about the crucifixion. While each idea was a good one, none of them were completely right.

Enter, Aletheia Springs 2013. I spent a good part of my summer working at the Aletheia Springs Christian Education Center. For my first week there, I went to learn from the teachers as a sessionite, or "camper," and certainly not to choose a plot for my upcoming novel, or so I thought. The teacher spent all week going through the book of Song of Solomon. Fascinated, I took almost thirty pages of notes. It wasn't until the last day when our teacher finished up that I suddenly turned to a friend and said, "Hey, what would happen if I transformed these passages into an allegorical fantasy novel?" She was a little baffled by the idea, and probably thought I was mad. Seriously, who comes up with that kind of an idea? And how is it possible to turn Song of Solomon into an allegorical fantasy novel?

But I held onto the idea...

2) Taking the Idea Further: Deciding Where to go From Here

It all Tirzah's Story.

Okay, so with eight chapters of Song of Solomon, thirty pages of notes, a Bible that looks like this (see below), and merely an idea that has something to do with an allegorical fantasy....where do you possibly start?

Well, in Song of Solomon there are two main characters. Solomon in all His glory, and the Shulammite bride. Sweet, so I have two main characters. But the Shulammite doesn't have an official name. In Song of Solomon 6:4, Solomon (Christ) says, "You are beautiful as Tirzah, my darling, as lovely as Jerusalem, as awesome as an army with banners." Tirzah means "delight," or "pleasantness." Perfect. My allegorical fantasy swiftly became Tirzah's Story. 

Two days after arriving home from Aletheia Springs, my family took a camping trip. I brought along my laptop and jumped whole-heartedly into storyland's crazy unknown. I started in chapter one of Song of Solomon and began vigorously typing out each chapter's outline. Soon, kingdoms and realms formed in my imagination. Friends, enemies, captives, vineyards, castles in the sky, a King's love -- all from Song of Solomon. But I didn't have a plot or theme and the outline I'd pulled from Song of Solomon needed tweaking, cutting, and pasting.

3) The Real Work: Forming a Theme

Tirzah's Story didn't work. "Delight" and "pleasantness" are both great meanings and would have fit well with the story. But as I got to know my character more, I realized that the name just didn't fit. So, what could I change her name to?
When you first meet my character, she's dirty, stained, and sinful. Instead of focusing on what we think our "perfections" are (i.e., our "delight" and "pleasantness"), I wanted to focus on how we were once dirty, but in our state of sin, darkened hearts, and imperfection, Christ rescued us out of the domain of Darkness into His marvelous light. So, where could I find a better and more fitting name?

"I am black but lovely, O daughter of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon. Do not stare at me because I am swarthy, for the sun has burned me. My mother's sons were angry with me; they made me caretakers of the vineyards, but I had not taken care of my own vineyards."

I typed "Meaning of Kedar" into the Google search engine. Kedar means stained, or dark-skinned. In the time Song of Solomon was written, milky white skin was what every woman dreamed about. Dark skin made one ugly and undesirable. Before Christ redeemed us, we were sinful, ugly, and undesirable. Perfect.

Tirzah's Story easily transformed into Kedar's Story.   

With a very tired brain, a novel in the midst of a publishing attempt, and a great too many things to do throughout the summer, theme-finding wasn't exactly at the top of my priority list. In fact, I put Kedar's Story on the back burner for three months (which, by the way, is something I've never done with a novel.) But as September crept in, I knew I either had to abandon this NaNo project, or get hip.

I decided to get hip.

A friend and I were talking, and she gave an example from a scene in the movie, Tangled. It was a really good example for the situation, but I didn't think any more of it. Later that day, I prayed for inspiration concerning my novel, as I knew time was running out and I had no inspiration on my own. That night, the scene came back to me. It fit perfectly with my novel.


By adding the "back and forth" principle shown in the above scene and a different brick tower for each of the six kingdoms, I had a theme. After living a great deal of her life chained to a tower and working her brother's vineyards, Kedar is rescued and brought into Solomon's Kingdom of Light. However, the desire to go back to the towers, now her "comfort zone," continues to creep back into her heart, causing Kedar to stumble.

Now with a basic sketch of my theme, Kedar's Story became Kedar's Tower.

4) Putting it All Together: Where am I Taking This?

That, my dear readers, is the most time consuming part of this whole journey, and still to be done with Kedar's Tower. Next on my to-do list (that sadly, I've put on the back burner yet again), is to find official names for my kings and other characters, and to go back through my seven documents and 3,000 word outline to put it all together. It'll involve piecing, cutting, twisting, moving, and reworking, but I'm not too far off. As soon as I have the outline, I'll be set and ready to write....and we'll see where Kedar's Tower takes me from there. :)

Are you excited to see this come to life? I'm almost there. Once the work's done, I'll be excited. What are your thoughts on Kedar's Tower? How do you plan your novels? Do your novels evolve like mine?

To further Solomon's Kingdom of Light,


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