The Great American novel. Well, I wouldn’t actually call it that but I am working on my novel from last year and and am again using NaNoWriMo as incentive to get closer to my goal.
When I stopped last year I was at around 35,000+ words and had since added probably another 5,000-something, maybe more. This year I didn’t start writing till the 7th but it was actively mulling around in my head and pushing against brain cells trying to force its way out. I normally do between 2,000-4,000 in a sitting after everyone is asleep, which is my best time to work. I compiled everything I have written into one document to get a base word count then anything over that went toward this year’s NaNo goal.
This year has been particularly busy for me. At the beginning of the year I promised myself to be more artful on a daily basis – in both word and illustration – and I have done just that. I have learned a great deal in both aspects and am looking forward to the coming year. I hve successfully completed almost all of my goals, have re-evaluated a few and let myself off the hook for the two that I was not able to complete. My goals for the new year are lined up and waiting so I am looking forward to a very fruitful year.
My story? I don’t even know where to begin to write a short summary on it so, for now, it is under wraps.
For this particular project I started with an outline last year in MS Word and deviated from there. I use the outline as a framework, a way to order scenes. It is nice to be able to make a list of events that I want to cover and move them around on a whim in the computer. The analog version would be to write scene ideas on 3×5 cards so that you can shuffle them around and put them in a more ordered fashion. I have found that having the outline in the computer helps with my creative flow though as my hands are better able to keep up with the flow of streaming conscious thought. Once I have the basic layout, a basic point A to point B, several subplots usually present themselves just to make things more interesting.
FILLING IN THE GAPS
One thing that I have really found helpful in keeping me from going into “edit brain” is to footnote or annotate my work.
What usually happens when I write is that I will be cruising along at a good clip when a stray, invasive, attention-demanding idea sideswipes me and tries to derail my train of thought. Now, my brain doesn’t remember things at times – a long story in itself on the wonders of medical malpractice and Prednisone – so something like this could be detrimental to actually completing my original thought. When this happens I have a specific procedure I go through:
I write a number, letter or word in subscript or in a margin.
I write the same at the top of another sheet of paper and quickly jot down the offending idea and anything I need to remind myself what and why I was thinking that or what breadcrumbs led me to that place in my thinking.
Doodling sometimes occurs.
Once out of my head I return to my original path and continue until I sputter out or decide to switch trains and go back to elaborate on the other outside path. When I go back to my little “side path” later I can refer to my notes and trigger the same train of thought. Some good “trigger inducers” would be to make note of what music I was listening to at the time or what was going on around me. This has proven, on more than one occasion, to be a good trick to keep me moving forward.
As a writer, I always like to see what other people think of my writing, how it flows and whether or not I can keep their interest as a storyteller. This has its pitfalls. If you are not very confident in your abilities. here is a word of advice: Do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT let anyone read your story till you are done with it. Everyone will have an opinion and some are less than charitable. I have seen first-time writer’s put down their pens and never pick them up again after taking personal opinion from friends who were, in their mind, “only trying to help”. This is the Kiss of Death.
Share a summary, share a favorite quote or scene, but do not let them read your story. For now you are writing for you. Once you have crossed that 50,000 word NaNoWriMo finish line, and have the confidence in your story and your writing ability that you should have at that point, then you can share your novel with those who are supportive and can give constructive criticism.
HOW TO BE SUPPORTIVE
Being supportive is an art form when you are put on the spot and asked to read someone’s work. You should always be honest but keep in mind that what you think is not the end-all-be-all and should not be offered as such. There are thousands of brilliant books that have done just fine without your opinion and one you are reading should be treated the same.
Are there any gaps or events that don’t make sense? Ask questions. Lead the author to fill in their own answers.
Suggest making a list of points to cover or make a list for them BUT remove yourself from it. DO not take things personally or push if they do not take your advice. In fact, refrain from giving advice altogether. Encourage them to write more and see where it takes them. Give them ideas to think on, things to add, but do not lead them down the dark path of editing. Don’t.
As the year continues, my main goal is to get as much out of my head and onto paper as possible. I am not going to allow myself to go into edit mode until I feel I am at a reasonable stopping point. I know that once I start the editorial process I will invariably add more to the story but that is what editing is for. As Nora Roberts would say, “I can fix a bad page, but I can’t fix a blank one.” In the meantime, keep moving forward.