The Book of Illiyan: NaNoWriMo Retrospective

…and What Happens Next

I finished NaNoWriMo 2016 in the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning. Around 3am, I officially clocked in at 51,319 words.


As I explained in the first process update, I changed my initial project during the first week. Originally, I wanted to revisit my college thesis, Chrysanthemum Frowns, and begin to rework that piece from the (long) short story that it is today, and transform it into a novel. This is something that I’ve wanted to do since graduation, but haven’t quite figured out how I want to approach it. I thought NaNoWriMo would be a fun, seasonal way to visit that piece, while also continuing to work on a few larger projects. I’ve still been plugging away at those dream job applications, organizing some future novel ideas, and helping keep GeekGirlCon’s blog fresh — one of my short pieces was even published to GeekInsider, where I’m now guest blogging through GGC. As is, every month is NaNoWriMo in my life, but it meant a lot to me when my writing bug was still fresh, so I wanted to openly support the org and participate. And, hey, another excuse to write is a darn good one!

But then the first of November came along. I worked on Chrysanthemum Frowns for one day when a project I had been working on since early May started buzzing at the back of my mind. Let’s call it The Book of Illiyan.

Well, BoI, whose title is still pending, was initially birthed in my mind nearly two years ago while on a jog. It started off as a more traditional science fiction piece that addressed alternate realities, but was ultimately shelved because of work and (at the time) school. I reopened the project when I moved to the Pac Northwest earlier this year, and it transformed into a high fantasy, probably YA, novel about an older teen named Illiyan.

Since May, I’ve been primarily focusing on taking pages upon pages of notes that focused on building my little universe — I have one notebook that’s totally dedicated to character names, and one dedicated to locations, geography, and culture. If I rounded them all up, god forbid, they’d probably have enough actual words to fill a trilogy. However, until this month, I hadn’t actually written any more than miscellaneous passages and sentences of actual prose or fiction dedicated to the book. A ton of notes, yes, but besides research, I hadn’t written the words “Chapter One.”

So, while I was sat down, still convinced that I wanted to begin my rewrite of Chrysanthemum Frowns, it hit me without warning: I wanted to work on TBOI.

Chrysanthemum Frowns was, and will continue to be as I pursue it in the future, an incredibly intellectual piece. My aim is to really challenge the art of language in an unconventional genre (horror), and this requires more method and effort. BoI, though, is effortless. Not that it is lesser in any way, but unlike Chrysanthemum Frowns (for which I’m still uninspired), BoI just came to me. On the second day of NaNoWriMo, I started messing with the prologue for fun, and the rest followed.

And thus, Book of Illiyan (BoI), was finally realized.

My hard-copy of the draft. Not going to lie, I might have shed some gross, ugly tears when I finally held it in my hands.

Right now, I’d reckon that the novel is a little less than half of what it will be when the manuscript is finally ready to be shipped. I’m currently reading through the first draft, whose soul purpose was to highlight the story, while putting together a more thorough timeline/overall plan for the first book for when I start edits. As I explained in the third process update, I decided to write the second draft from a different perspective (first person) to better compliment my protagonist. Once I’ve got a good chunk of that done, I’ll start sending samples to agents and publishers, some of whom I’ve already poked with a stick. After that, we’ll just have to wait and see!


50,000 words isn’t a ton, ultimately. In a good month, I probably write double or more that amount of accumulated work, blog, GGC, and other related prose. However, NaNoWriMo helped me take a project that I had been poking at for months, and jump start it into something amazing. I’m so happy with where BoI is going, and I can’t wait to keep plugging away. Thus far, the primary bulk of this draft was written to flesh out bigger plot points. Once I’ve gone back and finished the second draft, adding more in-betweens (the animation student in my still says), the final book will be at least double that in length. I have so much more of the story to tell, I’ve barely scratched the surface. NaNoWriMo was but a gateway to get me actually writing the story, versus spending too much time focusing on those darn notes and planning.

Looking to the future, this is the first book of a potentially lengthy series. Every time I sit down to get back to work, some part of the bigger story unfurls before my eyes. Illiyan, my dear Illiyan, is building a world around her, and I’m so excited to share her story with the world. There’s a lot left to do, but I imagine that this one will be with me for a very, very long time.


Thank you all for reading along while this story has been slowly growing. I can’t wait to share it with you.




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Indigo is a writer living out of Seattle. She plays a lot of video games.

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