Babbling about the novel

I have conceded that my NaNoWriMo novel is no longer so NaNo (or WriMo?). It’s still a novel, and one I intend to keep working on, but I won’t be hitting 50,000 words on November 30.

Where I am is at about 8,300 words after 26 days. Not that great but not bad either, especially considering I didn’t work on it every day and have been pretty busy at work, both with a sort of data driven project and writing a lot. But more important than finishing 8,300 words, I finished the first section which establishes:

  • the narrator’s weaknesses, desire, and need (always putting her mother’s happiness first)
  • her opponent (her domineering mother)
  • the inciting action (being found out by her fiance that she has lied to him in order to please her mother and his telling her needs some time apart)
  • this drives her to leave the first story world (New York City, a convenience and a prison) and enter the new story world (Berkeley and her recently passed grandmother’s house, which she has inherited), creating a fish out of water scenario.

Those of who haven’t read John Truby’s Anatomy of a Story may have no idea what I’m talking about. Therefore you should read his book (shameless Amazon Associates plug).

Following Truby’s steps and structure had really helped me focus this first section of the novel. I knew the purpose of each scene, and set up the narrator’s weaknesses which cause her fiance to reject her, sending her to her grandmother’s house. I wasn’t feeling around in the dark the way I usually do.

The next section is a bit scary.

For now, I’ve decided on two heroes, the narrator and her grandmother, and to switch back and forth between the two, which means switching back and forth in time. The idea is that the two story lines will culminate in significant ways as the narrator makes discoveries about her grandmother and other family members.

Why is this scary? One, I’ve been living with the narrator for a good month, and switching to her grandmother will be a challenge. Two, I’ll be writing about a world (1930s’ China) that I don’t know too much about it, outside of movies. Three, I’m worried that the grandmother sections will be more interesting than the present-day sections.

Years ago I wrote another novel that followed a similar structure: interweaving of a present day young Chinese American woman and her grandmother in her youth. I sent the novel to many agents, and several said that while the grandmother sections were fascinating, the present day sections were “flat.”

What I’m hoping is that the narrator’s story is compelling enough, if not as compelling as her grandmother’s, and that the direct connection between the two stories will make the pay-off between the two interesting and satisfying.



  1. i’m not completing my NaNo this month either. maybe over christmas but i’m not sure if i have the time despite having time off. hope i can eloquently explain it in a blog post at a later date but in short, life happened, and i was writing about a fictionalized version of the past but present events made me kind of revolt at the idea of writing any more! made it to 26K though.

  2. […] mentioned that part of my novel will be set in China in the 1930s and ’40s. While the book isn’t […]