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What's Next?

Calvin & Hobbes Creativity
I've heard this question so many times in the past few weeks that I'm having flashbacks to high school graduation. Most Olympians are warned in goalsetting workshops or by sports psychologists that they need to have plans already in motion by the time they come home from the Games, or they'll come home feeling empty or lost without something to keep pushing them. For some, that means turning around and starting a new training schedule for the upcoming quadrennium (four year period). I'm lucky. I was never just an archer. I have so many other interests that it seems unlikely I'll ever get truly bored in life. I'm also lucky in that I've known for years what I want to do with my life, with or without archery. I want to write.

My usual explanation for this strange desire to don a beret, sip espresso, and generally just starve myself into the role of existential-writer-extraordinaire goes something like, "Well, I like to write and people seem to like to read what I write. Works out well for everyone in the end!" And as simple an equation as that is, I'm actually banking on it. I don't really want to go into journalism. I know I don't want to be an English teacher. But I would be the happiest woman for miles around if I could write, edit, and publish books that people would like to read. If I could publish even one book that moved someone, that inspired them, that made them look differently at the world, then I would be over the moon.

Of course, I have to pay the bills somehow--and just writing something inspirational doesn't always cut it. I need not only to write my books, not only to get them published, but also to make sure they find their way into people's hands. My next truly big goal is for one of my books to make it onto the NY Times Best-Seller List by 2020. I don't care if I've got a slip novelette registering as a blip on the screen for half a day, or a record-setting new series that stays glued to the top. It would be nice to overshoot my mark and have several on the list at one time. I'll take what I can get, though. It's a worthy goal, and I'm already planning a few strategies on how to achieve that. In the meantime, though... let's just focus on getting something written, shall we?

So THAT is my next project, aside from finishing my degrees. Novel writing. This November will be my third year competing in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. It's sort of like a nationwide (actually, worldwide these days) writing marathon in which normal people sit down at their computers and type like crazy for the entire month of November. The goal is for each writer to have a short novel by the end of it: 50,000 words in 30 days. Before you start looking into having me committed, let me explain. This is actually a very worthwhile way to spend three weeks (and I don't mean the part about being holed up in my living room for days on end, surrounded by old Starbucks cups and empty ramen packages). It's the perfect writing exercise because the thrill of the deadline actually pushes you harder than you've ever pushed before, creatively speaking. "It's the end of the 'someday' novelist," proclaims my favorite NaNo flyer. And it's true. Instead of going through life saying I'll get around to penning that fabulous masterpiece of mine someday, you actually have an excuse to hang a DO NOT DISTURB UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES (unless you have more coffee) sign on your door and finally get down to business, once and for all.

I won't bore you with the details, all of which can be found on the NaNoWriMo website or in Chris Baty's wonderful little book, No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days. Suffice it to say that I have learned through being a competitive athlete that goals and deadlines make for very good motivators in life. NaNo is just another form of competition--although the only way to "win" is to beat your own best word count every day and to cross that finish line in time, waving your manuscript like it's God's gift to mankind. Which it probably isn't--not without some serious editing work. But still, you get the idea.

Now, before you all die of suspense waiting to ask me the next question on the list (but what are you going to write ABOUT??) I shall let you in on a secret. I'm a fantasy writer for fun, and I'd like to write historical fiction for a living. (That's why I'm double-majoring in English & History at the University of Texas right now.) But this year I am doing something that for me, is rather unprecedented. I am going to write about the Olympics and Paralympics. Strictly fiction, of course--though don't be surprised if you see a heavily edited version of that story you shouldn't have told me, deep in your drinks at the hotel in Washington. I've heard far too many wonderful stories in my two Games not to want to use some of them. The Olympics were MADE for drama! Anyway, this project is a kind of shot in the dark for me, and I have no idea how it will turn out, only that I need to follow through with it to see if it will work. I've never even read any sports fiction, so this is an entirely new endeavor for me. (Then again, J.K. Rowling never read much fantasy before she wrote Harry Potter, so really this is quite a good sign. Uh. Yeah.) Very exciting!

Here's the very, very rough synopsis:

Two friends and competitive archers are both headed for the Olympics, but they are in a car wreck and one comes out of it with a spinal injury. She goes through years of therapy to regain her strength and ability. The book opens as she discovers she's made the Team to the Paralympics--at the same time that the other friend makes it to the Olympics. The book will be an exploration of the different experiences each athlete must face and how that strains their relationship, ultimately bringing them closer together and showing them what it really means to be an Olympian.

Possible titles include: Passing the Torch, A Shot in the Dark, Slings and Arrows.
(I'm positively awful at names and titles... do you have any ideas?)

At any rate, I'll probably post an excerpt or two here sometime in November. Thank you all for reading! Oh, and if any of you happen to know a compassionate, well-connected literary agent or fabulously successful publishing company with the freedom to take a chance on a small-time novelist, drop me a line? I'd be forever in your debt. (And you'd probably merit a dedication in my book, no kidding!)

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
reyl
Oct. 14th, 2008 03:02 pm (UTC)
I've enjoyed reading your posts throughout these Olympics and I think that a novel of yours would be a pleasure to read. Go for it! I'm also an avid Nanoer, though the unedited manuscripts are starting to pile up. I may edit instead of writing a new one this year.
signor_ferrari
Oct. 14th, 2008 05:47 pm (UTC)
Parting Shots might also be a decent title. At the worst, anything you choose can just be a working title until you've got the novel fleshed out more and have a bit more story to hang the title from.
davidschussler
Oct. 14th, 2008 10:13 pm (UTC)
Title
If you write the archers into a relationship with love interest, you might call it "Cupid Gets The Gold".
Love,
David
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )