Friday, November 16, 2007

Day 16

We just passed the halfway point and, unfortunately it is not translating into my word count. As of today I have about 19,000 words finished but I am confident that I will reach 50K by the end of the month. I attribute my lagging to two reasons: lack of planning and commitment issues. I didn't plan this year; November sort of snuck up on me. So when I began to write, I knew very little about my characters, my story and where the plot was heading. Because of this, every word was a struggle and, at about day five, I decided to scrap my original idea and start on something completely different. Big mistake. First rule of novel writing is to commit to your story. And, as can be expected, the new project was just as much of a struggle. Part of me wanted to wave the white flag and surrender, but the weekend in Milwaukee gave me much needed time to think and plot and now, I am happy to say, the words are finally spilling out with ease.

I've been writing now for quite some time, but I'm starting to realize that learning about your writing process never ceases, so here are some of the things I learned this Nanowrimo:
  1. Plan Ahead - Some people can just close their eyes and let the inspiration flow. I'm not one of those people. It's difficult enough to find the perfect wording, give your characters depth and snappy dialogue, I can't be thinking about what should happen. By planning ahead and knowing what I'm going to write about before I sit down at the computer prevents me from staring at the blank page for hours trying to channel inspiration.
  2. Don't Give Everything You Got - Although I plan ahead for a few chapters, I seldom know what exactly is going to happen in the entire book. By not writing everything I know, by leaving a scene or two for tomorrow, I can, again, eliminate the thinking and the plotting during my writing time. Which brings me to my next point,
  3. Know Your Cycles - I sometimes forget that I get less productive as the day goes on and that if I don't write in the morning, I probably won't get much writing done at all. It's much more effective to wake up really early than it is to stay up late. Plotting I can do anytime. It's a different skill set. The actual act of writing requires motivation and inspiration, something that fades with me as the day goes on.
  4. The Scenes You Don't Want To Write Are the Scenes You Don't Want To Read - I hate writing scenes with lulls. I hate writing police procedural scenes or interview scenes, or any scene that is for the purpose of conveying information. How do I solve this problem? I don't write them. Any scene without tension or a powerful driving force does not make it's way into the manuscript. When I read, it's always the information gathering scenes I skip over. I find them boring. So that has become my screening process. If I'm having a hard time writing it, people are going to have a hard time reading it, so cut to something else.

I'm sure there will be more as the month moves on. Feel free to add any other tricks of the trade or new things you've learned about your process during this hectic National Novel Writing Month.

1 comment:

Quinn said...

Your last point reminds me of an Elmore Leonard quote, something like "I leave out the parts that people skip." It's good advice. My problem is that I sometimes take this too far and neglect to leave a little space for the narrative to breathe. My novel this year is a lot less breakneck in its pace than last year's, though, so hopefully I'm getting over this.

You're absolutely right about planning ahead. Most of my novel this year is outlined, but some of the scenes only sketchily so, and I had my roughest day yesterday when I really didn't know where one chapter was going. I got it done, but it was a struggle. Better planning would have helped me avoid that.

I admire your integrity, though, because if I started my novel over from scratch, I'd probably hang on to those initial few days of writing as part of my total word count. Yeah, it's cheating, but you're going to cut a lot out when you edit anyway...