Novel: Drafted!

I try not to make promises. Because I always fulfill them. Obligations rattle around in my ribcage and bounce off the bones.

Foolishly, I committed to finishing a novel in six weeks. Not just any novel: the sequel to Queen & Commander. The pressure to make it good (since the original won an award), the ever more complicated plots…. FOOLISH!

All robots have four arms, right?

The “Robot Texas Ranger” sits at a table and buries her spherical head in three hands. If she were the imbibing kind, that fourth hand would reach for a whiskey.

But it was Clarion West’s Write-a-thon, where people raise money to help the workshop by getting sponsors for writing projects. (And someday I’m going to attend the full workshop.) Besides, I had my plot outline (except for the C-plot with Olivia in a Dyfed prison, but there was the plot workshop with Connie Willis and Paul Park to help with that). And I was super excited about this new character I referred to as “the robot Texas Ranger.”

So I wrote, drank coffee, and wrote some more. I was coming off a writing high—shipped a videogame in June, wrote a pick-me-up novella in July. Surely a novel in August was doable!

During this time, I attended a number of readings from Clarion West instructors. Super interesting. But at one—Samuel R. Delaney—in the cold amphitheater of the Seattle Public Library, watching this long-bearded man talk about sex and barbeque, I had the horrible epiphany: he was the penultimate instructor.

My S.O. is a photo-taking fiend.

When we go on vacation, my husband likes to take photos of EVERYTHING.

That meant I only had one week left, and I was spending half of it at a friend’s wedding in Chicago. (At this point, I still had two-thirds of the book to write… plus that pesky plot C.)

Chicago has a Tiffany glass dome.

The largest dome made out of Tiffany glass. Photo copyright City of Chicago

I didn’t see as much of Chicago as I might have done. I drank Intelligensia coffee while I wrote. I ate deep dish pizza… and hammered out the C-plot. My friend’s wedding was unexpectedly spiritual, which made me feel like an atheist (a sentiment that worked its way into the novel).

I finished the draft on the plane returning from Chicago. One day to spare. It’s out with alpha-editors now, and you might hear more about it in a few months.

Why, yes, I did fly Southwest.

On the plane trip back from Chicago, I finished my first draft. In a fit of excitement, I wrote this on an inflight napkin and then grinned steadily till we landed.

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Janine A. Southard is a Writer & Editor for narrative projects. She's a proven talent when it comes to mimicking voices and crafting content for videogames, articles, & fiction.