Finished the First Draft of My YA Novel!

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NaNoWriMo winner certificate
Completed a very important goal this April 2021! Thanks to all who helped!

About 20 years ago, a dream gave me an idea for a story I decided I had to share with the world. The story grew in the writing until I envisioned a series of young adult novels. I’ve been through a lot since the inception of the series AVS: The Anti-Vampirism Society–things that slowed the writing or stopped it and then started it again, and many other writings in between. All along, my writing skills have improved and my characters and plot have developed in detail. So I have no regrets that the first book has taken this long to draft. Most of it has been critiqued, some of it self-edited and re-written.

Last month I got an email from NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) that tantalized me. It announced that for April 2021’s “camp” a new option of actually finishing a book (they call it NaNoFiMo) was encouraged and supported. Sitting with 6 more chapters to go of what I planned to be a 35-chapter novel, I set a goal to finish the first book in my series. I estimated a word count based on approximately 10 pages per chapter including parts of some of those chapters that I’d already written. I decided I could easily afford to write weekdays and take weekends off from the project. For mutual encouragement and help, I joined several groups of other NaNo writers.

My estimated word count was off; I needed more writing to make the planned finale work out. I actually ended up adding 2 chapters to the expected 6. Still, I finished my novel draft a week ahead of schedule, just last Friday, April 23, at 4:30 p.m. I’d often worked on it during an online write-in hosted by a writing group called 9 Bridges, which is held year-round every weekday from noon to 4 p.m. I reached my goal after last Friday’s session had ended and had no one online or near me to announce it to. The completion of this major goal has felt surreal and strangely anti-climactic. I feel I should be having a party.

Hoping for my writing to shed light on stormy seas

I keep each chapter in a separate file, double spaced, and in another file I keep track of these chapter’s name, title (I love to name chapters), page numbers, number of pages, and word count. I wrote END on the 401th page. Another writer informed me that the story’s 99,073 words is within the acceptable length for either a YA or adult novel. I still imagine that with proper editing out of unnecessary words and even possibly unnecessary scenes it will be shorter, but I could be wrong. A faster pace may make it a more exciting read, but it needs more description in some places.

I’m mostly following the advice of Stephen King, who in his book On Writing says to put away a finished draft for 6 weeks before taking it up and doing anything further with it. I say mostly because I will continue preparing and sharing a few pages twice a month with my critique group, and because I may submit part of the story to the Writers’ Mill’s monthly contest for May.

For more information about my AVS series, see the blog dedicated to it, https://robinlayneauthor.wordpress.com/

The About page of the AVS blog will tell you about the plot. The blog itself includes interviews of all the individual vampire characters I have invented so far. Although by default posts are presented from most recent to oldest, the interviews are best read in chronological order because they build on each other. In the process of letting my characters answer questions provided by other vampire enthusiasts, I learned that placing them in a scene was much more interesting than just letting them write answers to written inquiries. For that reason, the final interviews with Carletta and Luke are the best.

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