Ghosts and the Grind

My friend Mark took me out on the town yesterday since he thought I needed cheering up about not getting into Clarion. We went to a Sci-Fi art opening at Funhouse Gallery in the Russel Industrial Center, hit a couple bookstores where I got a second hand copy of Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book and a couple issues of the comic Mouseguard signed by David Petersen, The Boston Tea Room where I bought a crystal ball and The RustBelt Market where I purchased what I thought were mortician’s tools. (Not so sure they are anymore. They’re still cool as hell though.) I’m not particularly discouraged about the rejection but since Friday was payday, who am I to pass up a little retail therapy? Halfway through the day, my buddy asked innocently enough what my next big project was and a lump formed in my throat, a huge clot of words I wasn’t fully able to get out. Let me try again here.

My next big project is to revise a novella I wrote during NaNoWriMo, though the word “revision” makes the task sound far less daunting than it feels. I’ve written several full-length dramas and an over-sized Masters thesis so I’ve a passing familiarity with revising longer works. The novel in question however has to essentially re-form itself from the inside out due to a realization I had late during NaNoWriMo. It’s embarrassingly obvious now but the story is about a ghost that haunts a high school. I figured out around word number 40,000 that it is in fact a young adult novel which meant that having a teacher as the central character was a little… dumb. I muddled through to complete the required word count but I wasn’t pleased with what I’d written. So, Mark, my next big project is to re-envision, recast and entirely reform the tale from the perspective of the freshman computer enthusiast who confronts the ghost, the school body and ultimately himself.

How? I started by reviewing the prep work I did for the original draft. I already have character work done on most of the major figures, including the character who’ll now be the protagonist. Re-reading his backstory, I am simply shocked that I didn’t realize he was the hero earlier. File this under “Listen to your characters.” While I was fleshing out two of his friends, I realized that they had the potential for their own novel-length narrative arcs which means I might have my topic for NaNoWriMo 2012 already.

I have a few days off in a week where I’ll retreat from worldly distractions long enough to re-read the whole work and make a spreadsheet of the scenes. Then I’ll brood, tap my fingers and drink lots of coffee while I try to see the world of the story through my new major character’s eyes. My goal at the end of that week will be to have an outline of the tale as young adult novel.

Then I’ll let the idea brood until late June when I have more time off, the time I had already cleared to attend Clarion. My goal by the end of August is to have a book length manuscript that is better than a first draft. This time, Mark, I won’t be too ashamed of it to let you read it.