I’m a detail-oriented person and I feel scattered if I don’t have some kind of step-by-step plan in place, particularly when I’m writing fiction. These character flaws of mine drive me crazy sometimes, but I’m slowly coming around to accepting them.
If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, then you know I’m working on the first draft of a novel. Up to this point, I’ve had some basic ideas of what and who my story is about. I’ve also managed to write multiple scenes with a current word count tally somewhere around the 7K mark. However, I’ve noticed that I’m just kind of meandering through with the scenes I’ve written. They aren’t really going anywhere, so I’ve decided to step back and figure out the details.
Recently, I read this article by Jennifer Haupt about keeping your novel on track with a process journal, something I already do for almost every writing project. One thing she talks about is keeping track of the basics of your character’s personality traits and how the protagonist’s personality and personal growth should remain consistent throughout the story. This isn’t something I always think about when I’m writing my scenes, so I end up with a lot of rambling nonsense that ends up going nowhere.
Over the weekend, I started a more detailed outline, beginning with the basic information to figure out more about my protagonist. First I asked myself the following questions:
- Who is my protagonist at the beginning of the story?
- What is her desire?
- What is the initial plan?
- What critical weakness makes the plan fall apart?
- What is the “super power” that becomes stronger toward the middle of the story?
By asking those questions, I figured out the following:
- My protagonist lacks self-worth, is unwilling to face her past, blames herself for her mother’s death, harbors secrets, is career-focused, and believes she does not deserve happiness. In other words, she’s a mess.
- Her desire at the beginning of the story is to revive her career ASAP.
- Her initial plan is to find a job and start her life over far away from the hometown she was forced to return to after her fiance dumped her.
- Two main things cause her plan to fall apart and they are driven by her feelings of guilt: First, she finds out the family business is in trouble. Secondly, she begins to form a bond with her old flame’s young son.
- The “super power” that becomes stronger toward the middle of the story is the protagonist begins to find her purpose in life and slowly builds up her self-worth.
This is the kind of information that will help drive the story. I’ve put all of these details at the beginning of my outline for easy reference. The next thing I did was made a list of the major story events for Acts I, II, and III to help me figure out the structure of the story. The next step in my process will be to create a scene-by-scene outline centered around those major plot points.
When it comes to writing, I’m not a pantser. I need to have a road map. I know there will be detours taken along the way, but having a basic knowledge of how to get from point A to point B will keep me on track and hopefully make getting through this first draft a much smoother process in the end.
It’s day 22 in the writing process and I feel like I haven’t gotten a whole lot done. I’ve put in just under 17 hours so far. In order to reach my goal, I will have to put in 33 hours of work towards my novel over the next nine days.
That is not going to happen.
I’m okay with that, though. I’ve been working steadily on this project, some days longer than others, and I’ve accomplished one important thing: A drive to get the story down on paper. It’s fresh in my mind ALL the time. Ideas are percolating in my brain and I look forward to every minute that I can devote to writing this story.
Another interesting development is that the original story that I planned is changing. What was going to be a true romance novel, one where the focus is entirely on the hero and heroine’s developing relationship, is no longer the case. I’m more interested in the “heroine’s” story. There will be romance, but that romance is no longer the sole focus of her story, just another part of her journey.
I’m not one of those people who can sit down and just bang out a story. The process is a slow-moving one for me that usually involves plotting for a bit, writing some scenes then realizing that’s not the direction I want to go, then starting all over again. It’s a frustrating way to write, but I’m confident that it will all work itself out in the end.
Just a quickie:
I’m five days into Camp NaNoWriMo and my progress at this point has been at a slug’s pace. As of this writing, I’ve managed 1457 words of my 25K goal in the first four days (haven’t written yet today). That’s an average of about 365 words a day. If I keep up this not-so-breakneck pace, I should have my 25K words in a little over 2 months from now. The good news is that I am making the time to write, whether I feel like it or not. My true goal here is to get back into a regular daily writing habit, and so far that’s gone as planned.
For years I’ve had one goal and that’s to write a novel. Yet, I haven’t come close to reaching that goal. I have a pile of unfinished projects, notebooks filled with ideas, and computer files filled with even more ideas and outlines for projects.
But still, no finished novel.
I have had a few obstacles – crappy job, going back to school, dealing with cancer, quitting school, paying down debt, going back to school, getting laid off from crappy job, finding new crappy job. These are viable excuses to a degree. The reality is none of them are enough of an excuse to have kept me from writing.
As of today, I am committing to writing a book in one year. My goal is to finish a first draft, revise it and by the end of the year (preferably sooner) have a polished book to submit to agents and/or publishers. To help get me started, I’ve signed up for CampNanoWrimo, which begins July 1st.
The project I’ll be working on is the romance that I started last year during April’s CampNanoWrimo. I’d completed close to 30K words last year but was nowhere near finished. A few weeks ago I began rewriting it, but as I’m writing this blog post I think a better idea is to just continue adding to the manuscript I’ve already begun, rather than start all over with a new first draft. My goal for July is 25K words and I’ll be posting updates throughout the process.
There is never going to be a “right” time to write a book. There are always going to be excuses and obstacles, so you either have to commit to it or decide you’re never going to write a book and move on with your life.
I’m making the choice to put in the time and effort to get it done and my deadline is June 27, 2019.
No. More. Excuses.