According to the Google dictionary, a revelation is “a surprising and previously unknown fact, especially one that is made known in a dramatic way.”
That’s what happened to me at Camp NaNoWriMo this month.
A revelation…about what I want to write next.
But it took writing the start of two novels for me to figure that out.
I didn’t plan it that way.
I had planned to write the first draft of EUNICE & LINCOLN, the sequel to my first novel, THE CONTENDERS during my time at camp. 25,000 words was my goal for July.
In case you’ve never heard of Camp NaNoWriMo, it’s an online camp during the month of July (the organizers call it “an idyllic writers retreat, smack dab in the middle of your crazy life”) where you share a virtual “cabin” with other writers and support each other as you work towards your set writing goal.
I started the month off great and wrote 17,321 words in the first 18 days. I was ecstatic. Then, something happened.
I no longer wanted to write my story.
It threw me for a loop because I’d been thinking about the Eunice and Lincoln story ever since I wrote THE CONTENDERS back in 2010. It was the story that I wanted to write next featuring my main character Eunice Yang. But, I didn’t want to work on it anymore.
At first, I thought it was because I was still recovering from my time in Colorado Springs where I had mild altitude sickness (slight headache, fast heartbeat, occasional bouts of anxiety) for about a week. The hotel food also disagreed with my body and whenever I have GI problems, it can take me a while to recover.
The time in Colorado did make me feel off, but I still managed to write A LOT while I was there. But, when I got back to Seattle and rested for a few days, the motivation to keep writing my novel had left me.
It wasn’t fear of writing this time either.
It was different.
I didn’t want to work on this story anymore.
I reviewed my plot and armature notes and tried to figure out why. After some investigation, reflection, and then talking it over with Marcus, I realized that the story was wrong. I had to remove one of my main characters.
I had to remove Lincoln.
This was heartbreaking to me because the character of Lincoln has been with me for nine years, and I have great affection for him (thanks, Catherine, for pointing out that he might be my muse). Lincoln first showed up in the original plot for THE CONTENDERS, but after wrestling with the outline for months, I realized that he was not meant to be in that story. After taking him out, everything fell into place.
EUNICE & LINCOLN became EUNICE AND THE CLIQUE.
The story made more sense once I took Lincoln’s character out. I rewrote my 17,000+ words taking Lincoln out of the story, and centering it on Eunice and her two girlfriends: her old best friend and her new frenemy. Except for personally missing Lincoln, this process wasn’t hard to do. Things felt like they were clicking, and it wasn’t just because the word CLIQUE was in the title.
Then, by the end of July, all motivation left me again.
Again, it didn’t feel like the fear and procrastination I’ve felt before. This was something different. I felt both spent and also anxious to start writing. I wanted to stop and start at the same time. It was disconcerting, to say the least.
I was disappointed because this month had started off so well! I thought for sure that I’d reach my goal of 25,000 words. This was my third time doing Camp NaNoWriMo, and I thought the third time would be the charm.
But, it wasn’t.
Or was it?
What I discovered by the end of camp was that I didn’t want to write another novel. I’m still waiting for my editor to get back to me on SAHAR & THE SEVEN DUDES, my second novel, but I didn’t want to write another book for my third project.
I wanted to write a screenplay.
Now, this isn’t totally out of the blue. Let me explain.
It was almost 15 years ago, in fall 2003, that I started a 9-month course in screenwriting. I dived in and fell hook-line-and-sinker for writing scripts. I loved writing and I loved the screenwriting form. The class was challenging and gave me great amounts of anxiety, but I looked forward to it every week. I took the class in the evenings after working full-time at my university job, but somehow, I had sustained energy and never felt more alive.
After the course ended in 2004, I continued to rewrite my script several more times. My efforts paid off. My script, BOYFRIEND GIRLFRIEND, was one of the Top 5 winners of the 2005 Washington State Screenplay Competition and finished in the top 4% out of 1700 submissions in the 2005 Creative Screenwriting AAA Competition.
Then, things got hard.
I couldn’t seem to improve my screenwriting skills. I got depressed by the almost impossible prospect of selling a script. I stopped writing for a while.
Nearly two years passed and I started writing again, this time in the realm of children’s literature. That’s when I wrote and published THE CONTENDERS. Then, for the last two and a half years, I’ve been writing full time and recently completed my first adult novel, SAHAR & THE SEVEN DUDES.
After 15 years of honing my craft, I feel ready to embark on a new adventure–one that harkens back to the journey that started it all.
I’m going back to the form that made me fall in love with creative writing.
I’m going to write a screenplay.
It’s not a revelation that I ever thought would come out of Camp NaNoWriMo, but I’m glad it did.
Thanks to the Badass Honey Badgers–Karen, Kat, Tara, Catherine, Sandy, Sti, Edgy, Bryn, Cheri, Emily, and Mary–for your support, encouragement, and general badassery this month. Write on, BHBs!
Peg Cheng is the author of The Contenders, a middle-grade novel that asks, can enemies become friends? She is currently writing another novel that is a re-imagining of the Snow White fairy tale set in 1980s Seattle. Peg is also the creator of Fear & Writing, a workshop for procrastinating writers from all walks of life.