As November 1 approached, I was all pumped up and ready to begin drafting a new novel for 2017 NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. The story would be the third in my Hattie Robinson Barton saga and would follow Hattie into the era of the Great Depression.
In case you’re not familiar with my novels, the plot of Hattie’s Place, the first book, revolves around the main character, Hattie Robinson’s heartbreak over a broken engagement weeks before her graduation in 1906, the challenges of her first year of teaching in in the fictional town of Calhoun, South Carolina, and her surprising relationship with the widowed Charles Barton. In In the Fullness of Time, the second book, Hattie struggles to balance her life as a mother and wife with her passion for woman’s suffrage. In this third novel, which I will call Rising Above It, I’m thrusting Hattie into a new series of challenges, exacerbated by the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and subsequent worldwide economic depression of the 1930’s, to see if she can once again rise above adversity in her personal life.
I’d sketched out a rough plot, thought about the cast of characters–most of them had already been introduced in the previous books–and done some reading on the Great Depression, both fictional and non-fictional. I’d logged onto the NaNoWriMo website, filled out the participation forms, and was ready to begin.
And then I received a message from my editor at Kirkus Review, saying that the content edit of my current novel was ready for review.
“What novel is that?” you ask. Why, it’s the novel I began last year during National Novel Writing Month 2016–on track to be published early in 2018. The working title is Mountain Brook Memories: 1961-1963. The book skips a generation, and as the title implies, it takes up in 1961, with Hattie’s granddaughter, Harriet Oechsner–a preacher’s kid whose family moves to Birmingham at the height of the Cold War and the Civil Rights movement–as the main character.
Last year, I wrote with a fury, and completed over fifty thousand words well before the deadline, in time to prepare a Thanksgiving meal for our entire family. You can read all about my experience in former blogs. (Almost Time for NaNoWriMo NaNoWriMo Prep Recipes Countdown to National Novel Writing Month Na-No-Wri-Mo Panic Update on Na-No-Wri-Mo NaNoWriMo 2016 Winner!)
It was the first time I’d ever written to a deadline and participated in a major movement of writers all trying to accomplish the same thing, while supporting and cheering one another on. It was a fantastic experience, which I fully intended to repeat this year.
I’d hoped to finish revising Mountain Brook Memories, send it off for a second edit, and then begin drafting Rising Above It. Even if I wasn’t able to write all fifty thousand words by November 30, I’d at least get something down on paper to work with later.
The plan would have worked, had I not pursued a suggestion the editor made about an unevenness she noticed in my treatment of one of the book’s themes, civil rights. Early in the story I’d introduced the commitment on the part of a supporting character to stand up for racial equality, but had not brought up the theme again until chapter eleven. To more effectively anchor the theme to the character and setting, I decided to add a section about Birmingham after chapter two. It describes the collusion of Bull Connor’s police department with the Ku Klux Klan in allowing a white mob to attack and beat up Freedom Riders, who arrived at Greyhound and Trailways bus stations in Birmingham on Mother’s Day in 1961. Following that section, I drafted a scene in which the main character encounters the enforcement of a city ordinance segregating blacks from whites in public facilities.
It became obvious that the revision would involve the addition of an entire chapter that would require more research and writing time. Faced with the decision of fleshing out the novel I’d almost completed versus laying it aside to pursue work on an emerging plot for NaNoWriMo, I went with the proverbial bird-in-the-hand and chose to work on the revision.
So, even though I’m a 2017 NaNoWriMo dropout, I ended the month of November with an improved manuscript of a novel that, if all goes well, will be published in the New Year–a novel that emerged from the fifty thousand words I wrote during NaNoWriMo 2016. I’d say that’s a win-win situation. And, knowing the philosophy of the folks at NaNoWriMo, I’m certain that they agree.
I’m still searching for the right title for the Mountain Brook novel, but you can look for it to come out in January or February. You can also count me in for NaNoWriMo 2018!
In the meantime, if you haven’t read Hattie’s Place or In the Fullness of Time, you can purchase copies by clicking the link below. Or, if my books aren’t written in your preferred genre, they would still make good stocking stuffers for friends who love Chick Lit and Historical Fiction with strong female characters.