Home - is where I want to be / But I guess I'm already there /I come home -
she lifted up her wings /
Guess that this must be the place...
- Talking Heads, "Naive Melody"

Friday, November 20, 2009

50,000 and... done!

I do have two new cake recipes to blog, which I hope to do this weekend. Cake is always a good topic, right?

But in the meantime, I finished National Novel Writing Month! 50,000 words in 20 days, which is of course considerably less than a month. Evidently there is no limit to my word count when I have a nice clear outline and things are slow in my other committed areas. In an amusing bit of synchronicity, I crossed the line having finished all of the stuff I had in my outline, and my slow time is ending as of today, so I am very, very glad that I got off to such a strong early start; without that, it's likely that I would be abandoning the project right about now.

Obviously, I haven't written a novel in twenty days. I figure I am about halfway done with what might someday be the first draft of a novel. I am presently trying to decide if I want to take the rest of the month to do some more work on it in what time I can find, if I can stand opening up all those crit emails and reworking the first chapter of Empire, or if I should just take the rest of the month off and maybe do some reading, or something kooky like that, in between planning for the holidays. I am also noting with a mix of humor and despair that I could probably turn this half-a-draft into a three-book series without half trying. They're fun people to write about. Maybe next year?

And speaking of Empire, two more crits trickled in after the normal deadline. One of them had pretty much the same critical comments as the rest of them, but framed them by saying that she had really enjoyed reading it. I actually got teary-eyed, so I guess I do want to be a writer.

Where was I? NaNoWriMo, and my little progress bar turning green. I had two things I wanted to jot down here, if only for my future reference.

  • Outlining. I don't care what Stephen King says about it, I will use this tool again. I suspect a lot depends on what kind of story you're telling (so many things do). For this one, a purely event-driven action tale with a lot of set pieces and four characters to juggle, I think an outline makes an enormous amount of sense. The draft so far is messy enough as it is; if I had tried to "just write it," it would be more so. Your mileage may vary, naturally. I have two non-Empire novels in the mental wings; both of them got up to a few pages of atmosphere and character intros before fading off into a plotless muddle. Might be worth it to try this approach.

  • First draft tell, second draft show. This is something that I am starting to notice about my own working habits. Yours may be different. When I do a first draft, I write a lot of prose--my characters go off into lengthly interior monologues about what they're doing and why they're doing it, their personal  history, their hopes and fears and hypotheses about the problem they're trying to solve. In the second draft, I can turn these into actual scenes, but I don't seem able to do without that intermediate churn step, so I'm going to try to make a virtue of it and just let it happen that way. 

I have also noticed that I tend to give my main characters spectacularly horrible family lives. This makes them suicidal adolescents and over-achieving adults, with a finely honed set of emotional tools for coping with the less pleasant bits of being an SF/F hero. But this, I think, is not particularly unusual for the genre.

Anyway--I did it. I'm glad I did it. I've taken a much-needed break from other projects, wrote some stuff that I think is fun and might actually make a decent book someday, and proved to myself that I can still come up with new things, and still enjoy the process of writing.

Back soon with cake recipes. Promise.

Editing to add: Just realized that it was actually 19 writing days--I took one day off due to feeling crummy, as you can see in the chart.


Jenni Bailey said...

Wowzas. I tip my hat to you, dearie.

RJS said...

Thank you! I can't believe I did it. :)