I’m halfway through NaNoWriMo 2020 both in the number of days and number of words. After tonight’s session, I’ve written 27,040 words of my new novel Haunted. Here is how my project is going and what I’ve learned along the way.
This is a 100% pantser project
There is no one right way to write a novel, and this project proves it. This is a 100% pantser project. I had a story idea, but I threw it out the moment I started writing. I kept a few of the original character names. I’m letting the story tell itself, which is fun and liberating. I gave up on stories in the past because they didn’t conform to the structure I tried to impose on them. This time, I’m letting the plot points and characters emerge without judgement. What’s interesting is that they flow within a story structure without having to force one upon them. The finer points can be worked out in editing. Right now, I’m taking in the story the same way readers would when they see it for the first time.
Haunted is the prequel and sequel of Amiga
Someone asked if I was planning to write a sequel for Amiga. I wasn’t planning to write one at the time I was interviewed, but Haunted has certainly turned out to be that book. It is also the prequel for Amiga. We see Laura Rodriguez when she was in high school, and we get to find out about what happened to her after the events of Amiga. Haunted also continues the themes covered in Amiga. It deals with characters facing past trauma and how they learn to cope and find a way forward. These themes will be especially important as we deal with whatever comes out of the era we are in.
It’s inspired by tragedies past and present…
I have wanted to write about Mary Ann Henderson and her murder from the moment it happened. It was a horrific tragedy that continues to shake those who knew her. I attempted to write a novel about it a few years ago, but it didn’t feel quite right. I considered writing a non-fiction book back in 1984. I had contacted her parents, but even after eight years, they were in still too much pain to talk. I couldn’t imagine that her family would want to talk about it today. Burying a child is the worst thing a parent can experience. While some are willing to write about their heartbreak, others aren’t. It’s important we respect their choice to talk or not.
But I still needed a way to talk about my own experiences and feelings about that tragedy. The solution was to come up with a fictionalized version of the people and events. This also gives me an opportunity to explore more recent issues, including the school shootings of recent times and the tragic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. My goal is to make Haunted more than just the story of a single tragedy, but a reflection of the many tragedies we face in these difficult times.
…but it’s driven by hope for the future
I set Amiga and The Remainders in the present at the time I wrote them in 2016. But I set Haunted in October 2021, which is when I expect to finish the novel. As we look at the craziness ahead of us, just making it to 2021 seems like a stretch. But writing about a world where students have returned to classrooms, people meet face-to-face instead of exclusively through Zoom, and talking about the pandemic as something in the past—all these give me hope.
Part of my inspiration for Haunted comes from turning 60 next year. It is a time for reflection, but it is also a time for looking ahead. We’re not done yet, and there is still plenty we can contribute. Mostly, we can pass along the lessons we’ve learned, share stories about the events that shaped our world, and use our perseverance to offer hope to the youth of today.
Those are the reasons why I’m excited to share Haunted with you. But first, Haunted has to share its story with me.