Sunday, October 24, 2010

Straight From The Edit Desk...

This time last year I was newly (voluntarily) unemployed and focusing on my writing. So much so that I signed up for what some consider an impossible, crazy task of National Novel Writing Month. Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like: you spend the month of November, no more than thirty days, writing an original work of fiction (about 50,000 words). You can log your daily or even your weekly progress into your specialized profile page on the website, and when you complete your first draft, you can safely upload it to receive your completion certificate. There is no money or prizes to be gained; you simply come out of the month with a special sense of pride and accomplishment. And for some, a half-way decent story that can be further workshopped and edited and eventually pitched out to agents and publishers.
Now this year I am heading into November with a part-time job, though admittedly there are definitely some days on my hands that are pretty much devoid of responsibility altogether. Some might relish those, but I tend to go stir-crazy. So when faced with the "Can we welcome you back to NaNoWriMo" email that landed in my inbox about a week or so ago, I had a major choice on my hands. No, not if I should ignore it or answer it, but instead should I commit myself to starting a brand new manuscript, or should I take the month instead to actually (finally) edit one I have been hoping to finish for about a year and a half now.

The smart decision would be to choose the latter. After all, if I could polish what I already think is a strong story, I can use the bits and pieces that get left on the cutting room floor towards a future new novel idea. And hopefully the money I would make from selling that now-polished story would help fund my "time off" while writing the new one. It's just the more practical thing to do, in my opinion.

And for once, the practical decision was the one I made.


What would you do if you lived your entire childhood believing one thing to be true and allowing it to shape you and all of your emotional decisions, only to then learn one day deep into your adult life that you had been misled? Is it too little, too late to affect who you are and what you choose to do with your life? Do you let this long-time unknown truth become a new roadblock in the path you have set for yourself? Or is it even really in your control at all? This is the exact existential dilemma that Natalie Gray, a thirty-something single mother and television writer has to face when the alcoholic man who raised her passes away and she learns he was not in fact the biological father she always believed him to be. With her career really (finally) starting to take off and with two young kids to keep grounded, Natalie doesn’t want to believe the death—or any of the revelations from it—will affect her in a profound way…but inevitably they do, leaving her to question if she is who she is because of something innate, inherited or not, or if she is who she is only because she spent her whole life trying not
to be someone else.

Within "Shades of Gray", my currently 225-page dramatic work of fiction that I will begin editing on November 1st for National Novel Writing Month, Natalie must finally begin to face her own demons, as well those of her assumed father, as she befriends her new assistant, a seriously precocious high school senior, Dylan Conway, who grew up in as similarly a dysfunctional household as she did. She also must come to terms with all she has denied herself based on assumptions of heredity when she begins to fall for Dylan's father, Drew, who harbors the same set of problems from which she has spent almost two decades running and ultimately hiding.

Above all else, though, "Shades of Gray" is about Natalie's need to control. Like any true addict, the first step to overcoming is admitting the problem and acknowledging one truly wants to make the change. Only then can one begin to take it one day at a time to become a better, stronger individual. Natalie may be reluctant to relinquish said control, but surprisingly enough, the shocking and ultimately life-changing discovery she makes regarding her biology ends up being the positive catalyst she needs to actually begin the recovery process, let alone believe she even can.


Wish me luck!

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