NaNoWriMo 2020 Novel Update

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated you all on the newest revisions to the novel drafted in NaNoWriMo 2020. The changes are drastic. The first chapter is now more like a prologue. I’ve seen it done effectively in other novels but I’d really like some feedback on if it works. Is it cheating to call it a chapter? I’ve started the story even further along than previous new starts. I’ve cut most of the backstory and background story concerning Maisey’s family. I’ve switched from first to third person (still working on that revision). I’m toying with if it should be solely from Maisey’s POV in third or open it up to Tyler’s and any other strong supporting characters. Would love to hear your thoughts on if multiple POV (not head popping) is a plus or a minus. Hope you enjoy the latest version.

Kill Words (Draft first chapter) By Clare Graith ; approximate word count 85,000.

The vial contained the essential ingredient needed to start the next pandemic. So valuable, but only in theory, right? It might as well just contain the letters, F,E,A,R. Something he didn’t worry about, ever. The island was ready, completely self-contained, not only off the grid but having its own grid. Ten years of living a double life; loving husband to his childless wife, his doing, but she didn’t know. Working as a technical writer, not even in the pharma industry anymore, for a cosmetic company. What a laugh. He hated women that wore make-up, hated the whole concept of it.
He was ready to dump Sharon with her make-up, Louis Vuitton handbags and biting sarcasm. All he needed was the right woman, someone unsullied by another man, innocent, trusting, obedient, but not a child. She should be educated so he can have a meaningful conversation. Able to take care of herself, healthy enough to bear children, sweet, yes, most of all sweet and kind, pleasant to be around.
“Find her for me,” he said into his cell phone. He turned the steel canister around in his hand. Inside at minus 80 degree Celsius, the ampule of frozen cells rested dormant, safe, not a threat to anyone. “I’ll not only sell you the vial, I’ll give you the names of experts who can propagate the cells, no questions asked.”
He was like the kings of old, sending out a courier to find the best of the maidens for himself to choose from. What better way to make it happen than to get Henry to do it with his grand network?
“I’ll have the all the handlers on it,” Henry said, his voice gravely and deep. He probably smoked and drank along with eating too much. People just don’t know how to take care of the temple they live in. Not every man could boast the same rock-hard abs he had but to be less than perfectly fit was a prescription for disease. He’d like to say he could reach immortality with his health regime. He wasn’t there yet but he was working on it. No, for now he had to accept that at forty, he was as sharp, strong, and energetic as when he was twenty-five, the perfect age.

Chapter 2 (First paragraphs)

For a split second, Maisey had the opportunity to press the red phone icon, to end it, to back away from the cliff. In those moments of hesitation, the ground of ‘don’t do anything stupid’ crumbled under her feet.
“Hi,” Tyler said.


Read all the posts about this NaNoWriMo novel by choosing “NaNoWriMo” in categories.

© 2021 Clare Graith. All rights reserved.

The Power of Slash -Life of a NaNoWriMo Novel

“Kill Words” by Clare Graith – first paragraphs:

I can’t go home. That much I know. I’ll just stay in my car at the Walmart parking lot. If I could just get the phone package open. My hands are shaking. What did he say? “Hang up and go buy a burner phone then call me back.” His words go through my mind over and over. I love his voice. It matches the tone of his blog posts. Strong but approachable. I must be crazy. He only spoke one sentence and then click. Did I make that up?

I resort to using my car key to rip a hole in the package. The phone slides out. As soon as I have it on and the screen lights up, my heart pounds even faster. I need to calm down. I’m not doing anything wrong. I look around half excepting a police officer to come by come and tell me to step out of the car as though using a disposable phone is a crime. I’ve got to get it together. Seriously, all this could be a game; “let’s see what Maisey will do”. Wait, not Maisey, Maeve. I have to remember my blog name. I’ll play along for now. I make the call.

            He picks up at the first ring. “Hi Maeve. Sorry about this.”

            “What’s going on Tyler?” I surprise myself with a demanding tone. But that’s right Maeve would be that way. “Why can’t we talk on our regular phones?”

            “The people I work for. I think they’re monitoring my phone and my email.”

            “But you work for the library, right?”

            “The library is my cover job.”



The new beginning was created by chopping the entire first three chapters, picking the story up right before Maisey’s life spirals out of control. The previous beginnings are below. I think its getting better. Who wants to bet that I’ll have another post with further revisions? Anyone want to see more?

I hope sharing the progression of the beginning of my novel, gives someone out there the courage to try slashing. It can transform the beginning from “meh” to “yeah”.

Write On! Slash on! Be free from the page already written!

Read about Tyler’s backstory at EnTyleryWords.com

The previous Beginning read like this:


Lying on my bed, staring up at the swirly pattern on the ceiling of my childhood room, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need a blog. I need a place where I can be me, not the me that everyone thinks I am. The me I know I am. I’ll be called Maeve. That’s a good, solid sounding name. Better than Maisey. Not that Maisey is a bad name, it’s just that it’s grandma Gertie’s middle name and Grandma Gertie was incredible. Widowed with ten kids at thirty, she built a business making children’s cloths. What am I building? Not even immunity, I catch a cold every other month chasing after kids as a teacher’s aide.

This kind of thinking is what happens on fall break. Give me some time and I see my life for what it is. I see clearly, I’ve bought into the lie that working hard, getting a degree with high honors means I’m destined for success. My mother was a five-time winner of the Midwest teacher of the Year award. Yet what kind of job do I land? One that does not even require a college degree; ‘preferred but not required’ to be exact.

A blog will not solve all my problems, but it won’t add to them.

This was the version before:

I’m named after my grandmother, Gertrude Maisey Warner. But I don’t have her first name, I’m called Maisey. The truth is even when I was born my parents could tell I would not fill Grandma Gerty’s shoes. She married at eighteen, lost her husband at thirty and raised ten kids by sewing children’s clothes, eventually creating her own brand. Each of her children grew up with the same penchant for success. My uncle Bill is a neurosurgeon and pioneered a technique for treating a rare brain tumor. Uncle Jack is dean of mathematics at the university. Aunt Becca is co-founder of a medical device company. My own mother not only won ‘teacher of the year’ five years in a row for the Midwest region, but she started a non-profit to combat illiteracy in the inner city. Now it was the next generation’s turn to carry on the legacy unless I break the trend.

ORIGINAL First Draft Beginning:

I’m named after my grandmother Gertrude Maisey Warner, the revered matriarch of the family. They called her Gerty, but I’m called Maisey. I guess my parents could tell even then that I would not be able to fill her shoes. She married at eighteen and had ten kids all of them growing up to be upstanding citizens. My uncle Bill is a neurosurgeon, uncle Jack head of mathematics at the university, my aunt Becca a CEO of a medical device company. My own mother not only won ‘teacher of the year’ five years in a row for the Midwest region, but she started a non-profit to combat illiteracy in the inner-city.

NaNoWriMo 2020 Novel – A Walk Through Editing

At 40K words, I shared my opening paragraph of my NaNoWriMo novel – “Kill Words” . Below I have shown it again and explained the edits I have made so far. The first sentence of a novel is hugely important but the first paragraph in my opinion is usually the ‘make or break’ that determines if a reader goes on reading. That is the case for myself. When I open a “Look Inside” on Amazon, if the tone and intrigue is not there in the first paragraph, I’m not likely to go on. Sometimes I’ll open a random chapter and see if it catches me, but not often.

BEFORE Edit; First Draft, opening paragraph:

I’m named after my grandmother Gertrude Maisey Warner, the revered matriarch of the family. They called her Gerty, but I’m called Maisey. I guess my parents could tell even then that I would not be able to fill her shoes. She married at eighteen and had ten kids all of them growing up to be upstanding citizens. My uncle Bill is a neurosurgeon, uncle Jack head of mathematics at the university, my aunt Becca a CEO of a medical device company. My own mother not only won ‘teacher of the year’ five years in a row for the Midwest region, but she started a non-profit to combat illiteracy in the inner-city.

The Edits and why:

Removed – “The revered matriarch of the family” – Telling; I don’t need to state this; that is clear by what follows.

Removed – “They called her Gerty,” – Telling; it works better to just start calling her “Grandma Gerty”

Changed- “I guess my parents could tell even then that I would not be able to fill her shoes” – ‘I guess’ is soft compared to the revision ‘the truth is” since this is establishing the character’s belief and state of mind; it needs to be stronger.  ‘even then’ not as defined as ‘when I was born’ – again this is a judgement she feels she’s been under from day one; a key point to make.

Changed – “She married at eighteen and had ten kids all of them growing up to be upstanding citizens” – the sound of ‘upstanding citizens’ seemed out of character voice and telling. Adding in how grandma herself was a success (a point needed further in the story) works better.

Changed the accomplishments of some of grandma’s children to be more descriptive — this all may get cut; still on the fence if it pulls the reader out of the story. Let me know what you think.

Added in another statement of the character’s main concern in life at the start of the novel. This of course drastically changes!

AFTER Editing opening paragraph:

I’m named after my grandmother, Gertrude Maisey Warner. But I don’t have her first name, I’m called Maisey. The truth is even when I was born my parents could tell I would not fill Grandma Gerty’s shoes. She married at eighteen, lost her husband at thirty and raised ten kids by sewing children’s clothes, eventually creating her own brand. Each of her children grew up with the same penchant for success. My uncle Bill is a neurosurgeon and pioneered a technique for treating a rare brain tumor. Uncle Jack is dean of mathematics at the university. Aunt Becca is co-founder of a medical device company. My own mother not only won ‘teacher of the year’ five years in a row for the Midwest region, but she started a non-profit to combat illiteracy in the inner city. Now it was the next generation’s turn to carry on the legacy unless I break the trend.

I hope you have found this editing session helpful in your own editing adventures. Let me know what you think. You’ve “Looked Inside”. Do I need to edit again?

NaNoWriMo 2020 The End

Did I make it? I set my goal at 30K because I didn’t want to stress myself. The idea of fifty thousand words in thirty days seemed nuts. As a matter of fact when I first heard about NaNoWriMo two years ago that is just what I thought about it- crazy idea; who would even try? That was even though I’d written four full length novels. Those each took the better part of a year and sorry to say are still not publishing ready. 

I have no idea what compelled me to give it a go this year. Maybe 2020 has a good side too. I had a story idea, very basic, but it was something. Without any real passion for the story but just the pull of a challenge I typed the first words: “I’m named after my grandmother.” 

The marathon was on and 53k words and two days short of the end of the month later, I have a first draft that was exhilarating to write. There’s a lot of work to do. I bookmarked several places with “INSERT” and “CHANGE”. But I have found that pumping out a story rapidly staves off the story burnout that happened with the previous WIP. Another advantage is the tone and voice is consistent which is sometimes lost with writing a novel over a year’s time. I don’t know if I will ever do NaNoWriMo again. I’d like to think that this first time will be the last because I’ll be writing at the behest of an agent or publisher next year. If I can write a novel in thirty days without breaking a sweat (losing some sleep though and maybe straining my husband’s patience just a bit) I’m believing it can happen. Regardless, NaNoWriMo 2020 was a blast, something I won’t forget. “Strike while the iron is hot”. If inspiration takes you away, go with it. You might end up with a novel to your name. 

News Flash – NaNoWriMo 2020 at 40K Words

News flash, “Kill Words” is passing the forty thousand mark with just six days to go. Here’s a draft first paragraphs:

I’m named after my grandmother Gertrude Maisey Warner, the revered matriarch of the family. They called her Gerty, but I’m called Maisey. I guess my parents could tell even then that I would not be able to fill her shoes. She married at eighteen and had ten kids all of them growing up to be upstanding citizens. My uncle Bill is a neurosurgeon, uncle Jack head of mathematics at the university, my aunt Becca a CEO of a medical device company. My own mother not only won ‘teacher of the year’ five years in a row for the Midwest region, but she started a non-profit to combat illiteracy in the inner-city.

I went to college to be an elementary school teacher, but I’ve only landed a job as a teacher’s aide so far and that’s because of my mother’s connections. There’s no chance I’ll be getting married any time soon so forget about having ten kids. I’m about to turn twenty-five so maybe I’m just in a mid-twenties crisis. Is that a real thing? I shouldn’t go there. I’ve got a lot of reasons to be happy.

Day 1 NaNoWriMo 2020

Hope you’re having a great day and especially a great Day 1 of NaNoWriMo. Everything about 2020 is epic in good ways and not so good ways. Will NaNoWriMo be epic for you? Only one way to find out. Give it a go! I signed up on the official web-site. I’m starting a new novel; a young adult suspense. I committed to 1000 words a day and I’ve met that goal for today.

I want to encourage you if you’re still on the fence about it. You can quit any time. You can miss your goal any time. You can change what you’re working on, ANY TIME. No judgement! No penalty!

Anyway, last night I went on the web-site, started a project called “Virtual Truth”. I went to “Writers Resources” and picked the prep work character questionnaire. It was great to answer the questions about my progranist, supporting character and antagonist. I was reminded of something I was just taught: The protaganist needs to have a desire to do/be something that is in direct conflict with what they need to do.

In my new novel my protaganist Maisey desires to be out on an adventure, fully living her life. That is in direct conflict to her upbringing and family’s expectation that she’ll get married and have kids and be a successful teacher. The protaganist doesn’t always know their own inner desire. The very beginning of the story Maisey is concerned about getting married and having kids but that changes very quickly. 😊

Hope you all have the time and inspiration to jot a few words down every day this month towards a project. Write on people!