6 Things You Need to Know About Fiction Unboxed 1.5 (Preview)

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If you weren’t in Fiction Unboxed, you might not know this … but it was the best month ever!

Yes, it was exhausting, but we hardly cared. The project stuffed us inside a confining space worthy of Houdini (30-day ticking clock, 1000 people watching, no ideas of what to write … GO! WRITE A 100,000-WORD BOOK!), and it was our job to escape.

Despite all those restrictions (perhaps because of them), we ended up writing my favorite out of all our books at the time. We spawned an open story world in which dozens of other writers are already telling their own stories, an in-person Story World Summit … the list of amazing “firsts” goes on and on.

It was the most creatively exhilarating thing we’ve ever done. So unsurprisingly, we want to do it again.

But we wanted to do something smaller and easier to pull off in the time we’re able to devote to it now.  Something that previous Unboxers (or future Unboxers) would love and could learn a lot from … but that wouldn’t knock two months’ of productivity out of us in the doing.

So we did a “1.5” version of Fiction Unboxed — and, so we could join hands with a community we have yet to hook up with, we decided to do it in November, for NaNoWriMo.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. It’s in November. For NaNoWriMo.

Okay, so you knew this one already. But not everyone knows what NaNoWriMo is, so let’s give it a dedicated place on our list.

For those of you new to NaNoWriMo, it’s the incredibly clumsy almost-acronym for National Novel Writing Month, which takes place in November of each year.

The idea is to pledge to write 50,000 words during the month. Those words can count toward a novel that concludes later on, but ideally they’d comprise a novel that’s full and complete.

(Nitpick all you want on that fine point.) The bigger idea is for writers to encourage one another and hold one another accountable by recording ongoing word totals using NaNo tools and widgets. It’s a whole community thing.

2. If you want to be a picky asshole about it, then fine, we’re kind of cheating.

Our schedule requires us to teeeeeechnically run slightly in advance of NaNo and write from October 14 through November 12 or so, but we’ll post our words beginning on November 1 and will keep going until the book is finished. We’ll post our true words as we wrote them on the corresponding day, just slightly delayed.

We’ll post anything that happened on October 14th (our true first day in real time) faithfully on the the site during Unboxed 1.5. It’s just transposing dates. No big deal. You wouldn’t even know we were doing it if we didn’t tell you. (The reason we are telling you, by the way, is because we want to be honest.)

3. Unboxed 1.5 will be as exciting as 1.0 … and just like it in all the ways that count.

Meetings recorded live and with nothing held back! Raw words published exactly as they were written under pressure, without editing or modification! The thrill of racing a ticking clock, and the mystery of knowing we might fall flat on our faces!

Yes, 1.5 will have all the fun stuff you loved from the original. We’ll still be totally exposed, writing in front of you as things really unfold. If we screw up the story (as we almost did in the final days of 1.0), you’ll see it happen. If we get blocked and can’t figure out how to unravel a story knot, you’ll watch with bated breath to see if we can do it.

You’ll still see our beats, our outlines, our notes and deliberations and emails and texts about the story. You’ll still watch us groping forward day by day, trying to find out where we’re going.

But because this is 1.5 instead of 2.0 (and because it costs less and disturbs our other production in smaller ways), there are a few differences in ways you’ll probably not care much about …

4. Fiction Unboxed 1.5, unlike the original Fiction Unboxed, will be “broadcast only.”

We’re going to record and memorialize. You’re going to watch. Yes, we’ll be active on social media and in our site’s forums when we’re able (though Johnny will probably vanish into solitary confinement until the draft is done like before), but we won’t be taking polls, voting, or holding any truly “live” sessions as we did last time.

We simply don’t have the bandwidth to do that sort of thing again, so it was “broadcast mode” or nothing. We don’t think you’ll care. People still join the original Unboxed every day, and they’re seeing that one in broadcast mode.

The way you’d watch original Unboxed sessions or read original Unboxed words now? That’s how you’ll experience 1.5.

5. We’re only writing a rough draft. But to make up it, we’ll write more words.

OMG, do you know how complicated it was for Sean to edit behind me, for me to polish behind Sean, for our editor to be somewhere in the middle, and for me to be reverse-foreshadow while Sean was still reading the original out loud to his family? It was a madhouse.

So we’re going to write a rough draft — a longer rough draft than we wrote last time. We’ll edit and polish that draft later, with the cameras off, as our still-absolutely-crazy schedule allows (and yes, of course, Unboxers will still get the fully finished novel).

6. Rather than building a new world, this time we’ll be exploring how a world gets EXPANDED.

What will we be writing in Fiction Unboxed 1.5, you ask? Why, how fortuitous it is that you’d inquire. Because 1.5 seems like a logical “add-on” to 1.0, we’ll be writing the second Dream Engine book — the sequel to the novel we wrote during the first Unboxed. This is good news for you if you’re interested in writing series books … which, by the way, you really should be.

First novels pose certain challenges, but sequels pose different challenges — challenges we think you’ll delight in watching us attempt publicly, such as:

  • How do you tie a new book into the world of the first, picking up old ends where they lay and unraveling new ones?
  • How do you “up the stakes” without being cliché?
  • How do you make/let characters grow?
  • How does the world grow?

Between writing the first and second books in what we call the “world of Alterra,” we held a “Story World Summit” in Austin, Texas, wherein we and five other highly talented, highly motivated writers began adding their voices to the world. We determined what lies beyond the Fog, which other powers are in play around the world, and how many other Blunderbusses (Blunderbii?) there are and what they do.

We know a whole lot about the world, and now we’re going to explore it while Kalvin, Amy, Monica, Matt, and Garrett (whose works will also be canon in the story world) do the same from where their characters stand.

Sean and Dave will write their own book in the world … and immediately following the completion of the sequel’s draft, Sean and I won’t even stop. We’re going to forge ahead, immediately moving into the third book in the series, back to back.

November’s going to be a blast! So let’s dive in. 🙂

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