Writing a Novel in 72 hours: Day 263 of being a writer

So far, for the most part, everything's gone according to plan. On Thursday, I wrapped up the part in Pearl where Adrienne reveals to her mother and father that she dropped out of school well over a year ago, and that she's been stocking shelves and bartending ever since. That evening, we settled into Snowy's hip hugging bucket seats for the drive up to Uncle Mike's cottage and then to Toronto where we spent our weekend. I slept like a baby, Sunday night. And then at 8:00am on Monday I began to plan the novel, Where the Sun Sets.  I researched 'stuff for the story' on Monday and Tuesday. I developed an outline on Wednesday and Thursday.

This is where things do not go according to plan because today, right now in fact, I am supposed to be reading. As you can see, I am not reading.  

The truth is, there's more than not reading that hasn't gone to plan. I didn't get a good sleep on Wednesday night because my mind wouldn't shut off. Normally not a problem for me (it's a point of pride that I can turn my brain off and exist in a state of nothingness as I need to), it was on Wednesday night and as a result I got very little sleep. I spent four hours on Thursday scrubbing the floors to keep my body busy while my mind raced (consequently I had a much better sleep last night), and I have countless unanswered questions rattling around my brain but to write out those answers would be to write the story and I can't do that yet.

So, as midnight approaches (or more accurately, as 12:01am on Saturday approaches) I find myself unable to sit still. A snack here, a mug of coffee there. A chapter of a book (read, not written), a sweep of a room, a change of clothes. I'm doing anything to keep my fingers from typing out the story that I've been ruminating on these past two weeks, that's bubbling up inside of me. I want to write it all down, before it all goes away. But I'll have seventy two hours to do that. Saturday, Sunday, Monday. I get three sunrises and three sunsets to commit this story to paper. So now, instead of reading (like I had planned), I'm writing this post.

I haven't made a post in quite some time so it's probably a good thing. Stick to the plan until the plan changes, my mom always said, and there's no time like the present time.

So what is it like, then, on Day 263 of being a writer? The last time I checked in on this topic was Day 87, when I completed the first draft of my first novel length manuscript. I've learned many lessons since then, of both the business and creative variety. I've been actively poking the world of agents and publishers, I've been holding focus groups and working with an editor to refine the draft, and of course I've been building my author platform. Oh, and I've been writing! 

The GP (Grand Plan) is unchanged. For the most part. Well, unlike the previously disclosed events that didn't exactly go to plan, 'for the most part' is an exaggeration. The GP is unchanged conceptually but in practise it's massively changed. Stick to the plan till the plan changes, right? What's unchanged are the important bits. I'm still creating a world, a special experience for the next generation of our family by writing stories they will grow up with and ideally, come to love. What is changed is the path I am taking to get there. 

Before devoting my time and attention to writing stories for little ones, something I look forward to doing well into my golden years, I want to write stories for big ones. Adults, in other words. An author, someone I've met along this winding journey, told me that under no circumstances should I be writing for anyone other than myself. At the time, I brushed his words aside ('my niece and nephew are like sunlight and air, of course writing for them is for me,' I told myself). But his words sat with me and I later realized that he was onto something. I needed to write for me and before I could commit to writing children's stories for me, there were a couple adult-oriented ones I needed to squeak out first. That's what I've been doing. 

There are three (maybe four) stories I need to write before I can focus on Robin and Quinn's journey, and since those stories are what have taken up most my time over the last 175 days or so, I thought I'd share more about them.

Kings and Queens of Paradise Beach

A narrative fiction novella, submitted to Quattro for consideration during their 'new author novella competition' this fall (fitting, n'est pas?)

The story is written from the perspective of god who, this lifetime, is a woman. Shaped by her upbringing, god grows up surrounded by royalty in a sheltered community called Paradise Beach where she eventually meets and marries the love of her life. Preoccupied with her own happiness and the idyllic life she's built around her, god loses perspective and becomes disconnected from her work. When a mysterious friend that she hasn't thought of in years ventures back into her life and forces her to see the truth of what she's become, a cold-blooded executioner instead of a benevolent and responsible superpower, god has a serious problem. Like all gods amongst (wo)men who have come before her, will she be able to overcome her humanity and sacrifice her personal bliss for the greater good? Or, for the love of god, is everyone damned? 

Winners are announced in October (prize is publication). Wish me luck!


My current project, an adult fiction novel that's still in draft form.

This story's about Blood Pearl, an albino bottlenose dolphin who has been driven from her home because toxic algae blooms have destroyed the coastline and made it inhospitable. She and her entire family must journey North to territories they've never been before in order to find safe waters they can call home. But their migration goes terribly wrong when they are captured off the coast of Japan during an early season dolphin drive, and Pearl bears witness to the brutal slaughter of almost her entire family. Because her unique looks are an opportunity for tourism businesses to profit greatly, she is captured and then sold into captivity where for years she is forced to starve and live in subpar conditions while participating in shows for family entertainment. Her prospects of survival are grim until she's discovered by Adrienne Lee, a university drop out and drug addict, who is spiralling out of control and desperately needs to find a new reason to live. Adrienne finds that reason in Pearl and she teams up with OWIC, an international animal rights organization, and an anonymous money partner known only as Arch Angel, to negotiate with local organizations and the Taiwanese government in an unprecedented global effort to #BringPearlHome. 

This story is near and dear to me because I've always loved the ocean. In fact, when I first went to university it was with the intention of becoming a marine archaeologist so that I could explore the ocean in parallel to exploring humanity. In large part, the story has been inspired by the award winning documentary The Cove (if you haven't watched it you should, just make sure you have tissues with you when you do). The story is intended to be shocking and full of surprises as it brings the reader along an alien journey of dolphin culture, familial love, and survival, from the first person perspective. In parallel, the reader is exposed to the not-so-dissimilar inner workings of what it is to be a teenager who is forced to grow up too quickly, surrounded by pressures she doesn't fully understand. Not until she experiences her own breaking point in a world where drugs, alcohol, and sex are just a text away. The end of the story features a twist that has the reader seeing both characters, Adrienne and Pearl, in an entirely new light and will have folks questioning traditional views of people-animal relationships. Woohoo!

Where the Sun Sets

Ah, and this brings me to now. Right now. This book is the reason I'm writing this blog post and not tearing my hair out to keep my fingers busy, instead. I fell in love with the idea behind Where the Sun Sets two weeks ago when it first occurred to me. Immediately, I wanted the novel to already exist so that I could buy it and gift it to my husband for his birthday. But it doesn't exist so I need to write it (which is what I'll be doing over the next seventy two hours), so that I may gift it to my husband for his birthday on Tuesday.

The idea came to me while I was riding passenger with my father who was driving, on our way back to Kitchener from Scarborough. Just a couple days prior we'd heard news that a dear old family friend was very sick. We planned to visit her at her house in Scarborough as soon as it made sense to. A few days later, we paid her a short visit and then returned home.

Now, for the past three years or so, I've been conducting an informal poll of the people I love. There is no deep seeded reason for this poll except that I'm curious to hear how people justify the answer they give. I ask, 'If you had the choice between being able to teleport, or stop time, what would you choose?' Up until two weeks ago, 100% of all responses were the same: teleport. But when I asked my father the same question on our way back to Kitchener, he answered that he'd like to stop time. 'Why?' I asked, thinking of the visit we just had. He shrugged, like his answer was no big deal, and just said that it'd be neat to be able to do.

My dad's answer got me thinking. What would it be like to stop time? That moment is when this story idea, was born:

When Vole Gibbon's beloved wife is diagnosed with stage IV melanoma and Bay takes an unexpected turn for the worse, and he learns that she has no more than forty-eight hours left to live, Vole does what he’s vowed he would never do. He puts his faith in the universe and makes a wish. In turn, he's granted the ability to stop and restart time. Using his inexplicable and newfound power, Vole’s determined to fulfill the only request his wife ever made of him during their entire marriage: to one day leave everything behind and travel the world, together.

With time stopped, Vole packs up his ailing wife and their aging dog Jimmy, and carries them both to Nevada. The first place on Bay's international wish list of places to see. He restarts the clock where, for an exquisite few hours, he and Bay watch herds of wild mustangs gallop across endless golden plains against a backdrop of white tipped mountains and pink-and-orange streaked skies. But Vole quickly learns that when time is ticking, Bay’s health worsens. As carefully as they managed their pennies throughout their marriage, Vole must carefully manage the precious minutes they have left together. The problem is, whenever he stops time everything freezes. Fires don’t spark and water doesn’t flow, the sun doesn’t move and nothing changes or gets old… except for him. 

To live the life they'd always dreamed of, Vole must overcome the most difficult challenges he’s ever faced while carrying his wife and dog around the world and back home again before their time together stops, forever.

I begin writing in... nine hours. Not that I'm counting minutes, or anything.


Very undefined at the moment, but think of 'Gossip Girl' for the lower socio-economic classes, where all the really fun stuff happens. 


Now you know what I've been up to. Those are the three, possibly four, stories that I want to get down on paper before I recommence writing about all the dangers Robin and Quinn are vanquishing in their own, special adventure. I'm happy to say I'm a good part of the way there because I can't wait to get back to the Hart twins. I miss them, I miss writing about them, and I'm excited about all the changes I am going make to the manuscript (for those of you who missed out on earlier focus groups, I'll be looking for fresh meat in a few months so don't worry- I'll come knocking).

Most importantly I'm nine months into writing full time and I'm still thrilled with the change. I sometimes miss an inbox that's overflowing with hundreds of unread messages, and sometimes miss having conversations with strangers that I'm trying to convince do something that they aren't sure they want to do (yet), but those moments are rare. I never miss feeling confused about whether what I'm doing makes me happy (even if the rewards are very different), and I never miss feeling like I don't have the ability to execute when I need to, at the moment I need to. 

Anyway, time to get reading. I've delayed enough and my plan beckons. If you've read this far, thank you, thank you, thank you! I can't wait for the challenge and excitement of this weekend (you can read more about the competition here). For those of you who can't relate, imagine you're a turtle in a race for turtles, where the only turtle you're competing against is yourself. AWESOME!


Donna Litt1 Comment