During the 2016 Muskoka Novel Marathon, I wrote 1/2 of the novel PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE in 72hrs. I usually strive to write the entire first draft of a novel at the yearly novel writing marathon. Honestly, it’s where/when I do the lion’s share of my entire yearly writing output. I’m scatterbrained and forgetful. This makes for a terrible daily writing routine where one has to pick up where one left off the previous day. When I try to write in this manner, I find myself needing to go back a chapter or more just to find out where I am and what the story is about. We make do, right? We figure workarounds and MacGyvers to bypass our weaknesses. The Muskoka Novel Marathon is my workaround. I get to sit and write a novel hopefully from start to finish. Doing it this way, I don’t forget the thread… I carry it with me throughout the entire weekend and the weaving is both tighter and more sensical (as an aside here, I would like to point out that the spellcheck on this thing just told me sensical is not a word and that I should correct it to nonsensical… that is probably a sign in itself).
With PRIDE, I only got halfway through the novel during the marathon weekend. I say only but really, who gets to write half a novel in one weekend? It was a great start. I found my pace and I allowed the characters to take me on their journey. Prior to starting out on the writing journey every year, there is an almost 3 hour car trip from Toronto to Huntsville, Ontario… the heartland of the Muskokas, otherwise known as one of Ontario’s premiere cottage countries. I do this journey with the help of Tim Hortons, obviously. I am, after all, Canadian.
The difference with the year in question, 2016, is that not quite halfway to Huntsville I received a phone call while I was in the drive-thru of the aforementioned Tim Hortons. I pulled into a parking spot and answered my cell.
It was Lorraine Segato on the other end. For those who don’t know who that is, she’s the lead singer of the Parachute Club…the fabulous Canadian new wave band of the 80s that gave us the anthem song RISE UP. I had already chosen the song as the playlist for my 2016 Muskoka Novel Marathon novel. I had a playlist of one song, the title PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE, and an idea to somehow weave Ms. Segato into my story by way of reunion concert with my group of gays flocking to see the band that gave them their song of empowerment. It was going to be EPIC!
I spoke with Ms. Segato for a good 20 minutes. She told me what she liked about my ideas as I ran them by her, and she told me what she didn’t particularly stand by. She told me, most importantly, how she WOULDN’T act in certain situations I described. She gave me her authenticity and denounced one of my envisioned final scenes by clarifying that it just didn’t seem like something she would say/do.
After our conversation, I realized the very different turns my story could take. I realized I didn’t need to possibly misrepresent Ms. Segato by having her being inauthentic in the story, that I could leave her out of the story and still tell it. What I did keep in PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE was the thread of the novel’s one song playlist. RISE UP is woven throughout that novel in such a way that I sincerely hope it encourages my readers to reach for the Parachute Club and discover the power and magnitude of the anthem.
Pride did take a totally different direction than the one I envisioned for it. This is often the case when you chase a story over a short amount of time like this. You rush to keep up with the trajectory of your characters, who feel free to just explode onto the page and take the wheel. This is especially true in the wee hours of the mornings when you find you’re still writing the story but kind of in a fugue state… an auto-pilot state where writer has disappeared and only writing is left. I brought in parental characters who had their own story to tell, by way of gay parents for one of the teen characters. I brought in a gay hook-up app and age-inappropriate relations. I brought in characters unwilling to change and characters unable to do anything but change. I introduced love interests and bigots and bright-sides, all the while playing that RISE UP song… both within the pages of the story and in the earbuds connected to my short Spotify playlist. The song fueled me in the same way Ms. Segato’s conversation fueled me. With her help, I totally avoided the bad ending I envisioned for my story. She essentially wrote herself out of the story in a way that kept her presence all over it.
It’s FRIDAY today as I write this. On social media, writers and readers alike use this day to tell the world what they’re reading and suggest what others COULD be reading. So today, I’m going to make a suggestion. Bet you can’t guess what it is.
Here’s the blurb for PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE:
Ezra Caine is gay. He’s sort of out at school but not at home, where he fears the wrath of his father’s bigotry. When Ezra’s flamboyantly out friend Alex Mills takes one too many beatings from homophobic bully Will Severe, Ezra finally snaps. Fed up with the situation at school, he decides to do something about it.
With the help of his BFF, Nettie, and some unlikely allies, Ezra rallies to create their small-town school’s first gay-straight alliance. The Rainbow Alliance Club is formed. But the changes don’t come without hiccups, one of which being a messy scandal involving Alex and a gay hook-up app.
As Ezra and his friends attempt to sway their school into an alliance of tolerance and acceptance, Ezra experiences a few surprises of his own on the home-front. He also learns the hard way that friendships out of convenience aren’t always a good idea, just as some enemies might not be as bad as he originally imagined them to be.
The blurb says nothing about Gary. I honestly didn’t know Gary would strike a chord with so many people, but he has. I’ve even had emails and contacts through my site here from readers telling me how much they loved Gary…who is one of Marc’s two fathers. I don’t know where Gary came from, but I’m almost certain he was born around 2am on the Saturday of that marathon. He’s flamboyant af and when he entered the story he pretty much pranced, garden sheers in hand…demanding to be noticed. That’s one of the delights of the Muskoka Novel Marathon…unexpected characters, unexpected scenes, unexpected everything. THIS IS THE WAY TO WRITE A FIRST DRAFT. Trust me.
Today, may I suggest this little novel that I poured so many dedicated hours of work into…both at the marathon and after. Yes, we plow through first drafts at these marathons, but man do we ever work and rework these things when the weekend’s over. It took me more than a year of rewrites to get to the finished manuscript for this novel. And that was before the big edits at the publisher stage. MNM is for first drafts. It’s a magical way to produce them, too. POOF! In one weekend you have a draft or a good portion of one. And if you get stuck along the way, you’re in a room with 39 other writers doing the exact same thing. We depend on one another to bounce ideas around and help get each other through the hard bits.
I’ll be doing the Muskoka Novel Marathon again this coming July. It’ll be my 11th marathon. I’ve no idea what I’m going to write this time around. I’m almost certain I’ll have no celebrity phone calls during my long ride up to Huntsville, but I’m also certain I’ll have some ideas floating around by then. Maybe even a playlist. In the coming weeks, I’ll be asking for MONEY. Not for me, of course, but for the CAUSE. The marathon is not just an amazing way to write a first draft. Though we often forget it’s not a con or a workshop or a writing retreat…it is first and foremost a fundraiser. Every year the 40 writers who attend the marathon collect pledges prior to attending. All monies raised go to the literacy programs of the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka. We typically raise over $30,000.00 a year…these much needed funds keep all the vibrant literacy programs running. Keep a watch here for my donation link. I would really appreciate your support.
In the meantime, how about heading over to Amazon and picking up a copy of PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE for #FridayReads You can see just what sort of thing comes out of a 72 hour novel writing marathon. I’m making it really easy for you. JUST CLICK ON ONE OF THE TWO BOOK COVERS BELOW:
If you have already read PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE, I thank you for doing so. If you haven’t already, please consider leaving a review at either AMAZON or on GOODREADS. It would be very much appreciated. Us authors with small publishers rely a lot on word of mouth…Goodreads and Amazon are great ways for new readers to discover us. THANKS SO MUCH!
Happy #FridayReads whatever you choose to read today!