I linked to a series of resources (articles, videos) about approaching NaNoWriMo and novel writing last month. My month is packed full of going through casting submissions for the first half and then script-writing on a certain space opera for the second half, but I wanted to add something for folks novel-writing one week in.
Now, if you read last week’s post and decided that you are more of a plotter, writer Derek Murphy has a 9 step “plot dot” for you. For some, you’ll quickly pick up on the fact that this is quite in line with the “hero’s journey,” which may not fit with the novel you’re trying to write. However, for many species of novel and feature film, there’s a key conceit that this story is a chronicle of something that happened that was quite extraordinary, even on the personal level of a single level. Implicitly, we, the readers or audience want to know “why is this night is different from all other nights?” as it were. So whatever your story’s goals are, you gotta deliver.
Of course, you need both. The key is where you start and I know of writers who use one or other to get a story going. Not only that, the same writer may need a good plot hook to get one story going where they’ll need a compelling character to get into another story.
The one thing I definitely want to echo from Green’s advice above is it’s a love for the characters that provides fuel. For my short story “Final Delivery” in the anthology linked above, it was naturally the plot I came up with first, but it was the characters that made it fun and ring true as I was writing. For Rogue Tyger, that’s also a very plot-heavy series at present (what with all the cliffhangers), but it’s crafting and deepening the characters and figuring out how they’ll deal with various situations that makes me want to fire up ye olde computer again. Loving the characters, even if the characters are not lovely, can see you through any plot.
Binge Writing vs. Daily Ritual
If I say “only daily ritual” then I will be completely lying to you because many of my scripts, like Nostromo 2were finished thanks to an intense, sleep-depriving binge session.
However, that’s because we had a very real deadline to perform said script.
But I’ll point again to something specific Hank Green mentions in the video about needing to work on the story steadily through a given week otherwise he forgets the story. Simply put: you want your brain to be thinking about your story when you’re not writing. It will solve problems and make connections like your muscles heal back stronger after a workout. It’s wonderful.
While I completely agree about this, I’m still an advocate of “showing up” for those regular writing sessions. And remember, that 20 minutes or hour or 1-2 hours can be at the same time or different times, depending on your everyday life level of crazy, just so long as you regularly show up. I try and make it be around the same time and I know I’m not the only person who benefits from that schedule, but I also know there’s a reason why I or other binge write because that’s when we have time.
My point is that showing up specifically to put words on paper has to be in the mix. If that session is just staring at the keyboard or thinking, then I advocate doing so many of the other things he’s talking about from researching to re-reading your work, etc. so that you can put words on paper. I’m not concerned about word count, just words on paper, steadily, inevitably (moo hoo ha ha ha).
Time Writes the Book
I mean, that’s what I mentioned above, so I agree. Ya just gotta keep putting words up there. You’ll read no end of people who say the first draft is crap no matter who you are. If you need to hear that so you won’t edit while your write, fine. If you need to not believe that because otherwise you won’t write, don’t believe it. Just get all the words you need on the page. Put it in the time.
How to Plot
Writing is re-writing, so I love his idea of having a guide of “things to change” so he doesn’t mess with his flow.
My method of plotting likely deserves its own post, but the short version I equate to outlining high-level enough to head in what seems to be the right direction for the given story and only tightening the screws of scenes when I need to so I don’t need to re-do stuff, but if I do –hey, they’re screws, not nails. It’s like when you’re building a flat for theater scenery and–
Okay, I’ll save all that for later.
The Characters Have to be Real
Don’t disagree at all, but sometimes I’m the DM observing the player characters do their thing and sometimes the story demands I throw a hazard in their way… or, y’know, have them die a horrible death.
As long as things are truthful.
Don’t Write Linear if You Don’t Want To
This goes back into some of my plotting. For any given story, I might have whole scenes totally written that are in Episode 27 because that’s what excited me to write the story.
I have written the last scene of the entire series, Rogue Tyger. Will I rewrite it? Almost certainly — given all the scenes and episodes I’ll write between now and then. But, damn, it was fun to write.
Don’t Ignore Your Passions When Writing
“Write what you know” is an aphorism that definitely deserves its own post to pull apart, but here I also wholeheartedly agree: put your passion and truth into your writing, don’t close it off. To paraphrase Dr. Spock, “You can write more than you think because you know more than you think.”
Hope you enjoyed the video and some wheels are turning in your brain. I’ll be back each Monday this month with more NaNoWriMo prep.
In the end –which is to say when NaNoWriMo ended on November 30th– I completed 50 script pages: half of the 100 I had set out to do.
Having all the blog posts finished by October meant I could focus on the script writing.
I’m very happy with what I have written — and it’s work I’ll continue and should finish in the new year.
Hey, I didn’t reach my goal. I didn’t set the goal to not reach it. Bother.
I’m not sure when I’ll be able to write as much as 50 pages per month in the near future, let alone 100. Also: bother.
Rather self-evident improvements for next time:
Carve out more time in my schedule ahead of time
I relied too much on finding “some time during the day.” This approach is fine to get my 20 minutes a day which has been my hallmark method of writing for about six years or so. I’ve used it because it gets results: maybe one or two pages a day adds up over the course of a year. But to get 100 pages in a month, I need more dedicated time.
Have detailed outlines of what I want to write during the month.
In fairness, I did have outlines for the stories, but they varied in their level of detail. And I wasn’t sure how fast I was going to go through the stories. When filmmaker and all-around nice guy Barry Gribble mentioned that he had finished his outlines in October in preparation to write two pilots in this November, I knew he was onto something. He had specific writing goals and had set himself up to best complete them. I do this sort of project management in other realms all the time. And although you want to keep storytelling ‘organic,’ this makes sense in order to move from ‘wanting to write’ to ‘having written.’ A lot of the ‘organic’ for me will come in the planning and outlining. At some point, I need to write that draft. Barry had set the stage so November was writing the dang drafts.
So, I’ll certainly compare notes with Barry and others, but it sounds like next September, I’ll be identifying the story or stories I want to tackle in November. Then, I need to make sure I have a detailed enough outline by the end of October: detailed enough to appropriately rock and roll on a draft in November (whether that draft is any good or not is, naturally, immaterial).
Part of a month-long series of inspirational or informational posts during NaNoWriMo.
At the beginning of the month, I posted a link to the daily routines of many well-known writers, many from decades earlier. But what about those of us who use those pale electric boxes all the cool kids have these days? Author John Scalsi explains his methods.