Novel Planning

I’ve never really been a story planner and that was one of the reasons why I failed to get past 17,000 words or so in my first attempt at NaNoWriMo. There are several trains of thought on this.

Planning your novel ahead of time increases its likelihood of being dead on arrival.

Says The NY Book Editors.

But now I’m not so sure that this is sound advice for me. I completely understand that what works for some doesn’t for others. Pantster writing, (writing by the seat of your pants, or the process of letting your characters dictate what happens next) has worked for me for many years when writing short stories, but less so when the work gets over about 5,000 words and over 50,000 words forget it. A change is needed.

So lately, I’ve been looking at different planning aids that can help me with this. Obviously, every story requires a beginning, middle and an end for it to work, so a simple triangle can show this. The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote about the triangle as the left side rising as the Introduction, the top point as the Crisis and falling left slope as the Resolution where the conflict of the story is resolved. This can be seen in any scene of any play or novel. It’s commonly known as Aristotle’s Unified Plot Structure.

Is this an oversimplification of what we use?  What about all those other parts that make it complete?

I recently came across Freytag’s Pyramid which is built on Aristotle’s triangle but adds two more levels to become five stages. Introduction where we meet the characters, setting, time and establishes the atmosphere of the story and something of the conflicts. The story arc moves onto Rising Action where the reader begins to sense the escalating tension. Usually, this is where obstacles are introduced and secondary characters are introduced into the mix. Then, the story reaches its Climax where we find if a change is for the better or worse, depending on the type of storyline. After this, the story begins to fall away and enters the Falling Action stage where the characters either win or lose and the suspense is further ramped up by unexpected events all building towards the Conclusion or the end of the story. Sometimes the reader learns what has happened to the characters after the end, sometimes we are left to guess.

If I do enter NaNoWriMo again this November I’m going to try Freytag’s Pyramid and see if that works for me.

 

NaNoWriMo Approaches

It’s that time of year again. The time when I decide whether or not to take up the November writing challenge. I did it last year, won and have spent ever since trying to make my effort into something readable. I’m still working on it and its grown to over 90,000 words as I try to get it to a suitable ending.

In the past, I’ve always struggled to start or got bogged down in the middle somewhere. Lost focus or lost interest or just found that time had overtaken me and then it was difficult to get started again. I’ve been lucky to be able to use Scrivener to break it up into manageable chunks and lately I’ve started using Ulysses, which does the same but in a different way. In fact, I’m writing this in Ulysses as it allows me to post straight into WordPress and onto my blog. Easy.

I need to make up my mind shortly though as that will give me time to research and plan during October. Although I’m pretty sure that things will be busy for me in that month so as you can see. I’m a long way from deciding as we head towards the end of September. Have to wait and see I suppose.

If I abandon my 90,000+ word project for a couple of months whilst I indulge myself on NaNoWriMo will I ever start it again? On the other hand, if I do that and then come back to it will reading it again guide me to a suitable ending? Dilemma – I’ll let you know.

Blogging Habit

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll always be an infrequent blogger. I only post a blog post when I have something to say, as opposed to those who feel they have to post every day. I have nothing against those who wish to do this but it’s really up to them. I always think I’ll do more blogging but it never actually happens as other things take precedence. I’ve spent the past few weeks trying to finish my NaNoWriMo novel and am still to complete its first draft. Even though I’m over 100,00 words it shows no signs of concluding. I’m not sure if this is a good or a bad thing!

Then I’m writing short stories and entering contests regularly, something I promised myself I would do this year. Blogging seems to be falling a poor third in the race for my time. I’m not complaining, its never been my desire to have hundreds or thousands of followers or to earn any sort of reputation or living from my blog, although I do realise that is possible.

I like a story prompt, but they inspire me to write fiction, not about me as I’m pretty uninteresting anyway (say awww), no don’t- please.

So I’ll continue with my sporadic and often disjointed posts, when I feel I have something to contribute and hopefully people on the same wavelength as me will find them a. Amusing  b. Thought provoking  c. Now what is c?

 

Well That’s Another Year Gone – Almost

And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been. - Rainer Maria Rilke

I realise that there are still some days left in 2015, and Santa has still to pop down chimneys all over the world, but I have already begun thinking about life in 2016. I never make New Year resolutions as they are just there to be broken, but I do try to plan ahead and think about what I may achieve in the months to come. Here is my list so far:

  • Write something every day, even if it’s just a shopping list.
  • Finish the first draft on this years NaNoWriMo novel and then put it away for a couple of months.
  • Enter more writing contests; something I’ve failed to do in 2015, except for a couple in December.
  • Read more books, whenever I possibly can.
  • Read more of other blogs and comment.
  • Blog more regularly, and about different things.
  • Continue eating a low fat diet as it’s really working for me.
  • Step up my exercise regime; I know I’ll need to after Christmas.

Those are things that I think of for the time being, but there will be lots more to add in the coming months. Around this time of year, it seems that the world is looking backwards. We are bombarded with reviews of 2015, of what we did in the past year and what our achievements have been. I try not to do it and many years ago developed this mantra, which is probably a mixture of other peoples quotes, but it works for me.

The past is past, it cannot be re-written or undone. Learn from it and move on.

Steve Cripwell

I hope you all enjoy the festive season and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

61,000 and Counting

The novel, started during NaNoWriMo, continues to keep me writing and as the story unfolds I am loving it. I’ve begun waking every morning, filled with new ideas and a strong desire to jump on the laptop and just write. This is the first novel I’ve started, and over the years I’ve started a few, which isn’t drying up but continues to flow. I stumbled a little in the middle of the month and one day, in particular, it was very hard to write anything at all. It was like my brain just couldn’t make it to where I wanted to be. So I skipped that part and wrote further down the line and then, suddenly, it came to me and I wrote some scenes which joined everything together.

I don’t need to maintain the pace of before but, strangely enough, I am. I would like to get the first draft done before Christmas and then I can relax and enjoy the festivities but it really doesn’t matter if I don’t. The main thing is to finish it, put it away for a couple of months, come back to it and read it with fresh eyes.

Since winning in NaNo, I’ve gone back already and added scenes which will become apparent later in the story. Luckily Scrivener allows that to be done really easily. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be, with this amount of word count, working in a single Word or Libre Office document. Scrivener is the best money I have ever spent on writing software.

So it’s onward and upward

Finished

‘Read a lot, write a lot, always’

 Stephen King

Today I hit the 50,000 words plus barrier at NaNoWriMo. In fact, I finished today on 52,105 words with nine days to spare. Big sighs of relief all round. This year, however, I intend to continue with my novel as I feel it needs completing. The characters  are still growing and telling me the story so I’ve settled on trying to pound out an achievable 2,000 words a day, as there is so much still to be said.

In previous years I’ve stopped once I’d finished writing in November, thinking that was my achievement done for the year. What I actually discovered was that walking away from the story allowed it to die, as I went on to other projects. Flitting about like a butterfly. I then found it impossible to get back into the story and into the heads of the protagonists and my muse left me, staring at a jumble of words. So this time I plan to keep going and to keep the characters alive. At 52,000 words I don’t feel  I am even half way towards my novel’s first draft and I have set my goal at completing that.

I don’t know what will happen but I am resolved to write something every day, and continue to build it into a completed first draft. It’s a good feeling to complete the November challenge but this year I shall keep it going.

Good luck to all others out there, still writing and heading to 50,000. I’m  with you and will continue updating my word count until the end. Keep it up you’re doing great.

NaNoWriMo First Week

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Well after commencing writing last Sunday morning I’ve written almost 18,000 words so I’m pretty pleased with that. I’ve averaged about 2,500 words per day, lifting me above the minimum 1,667 target. This gives me some breathing space, should I need it. The story is going pretty well too, although I am confident of getting my 50,000 words before the end of November I don’t think the novel’s first draft will be completed as my characters seem to have a lot to say at the moment. They are currently establishing their true personalities, one of the most exciting parts of writing, for me. It’s when they begin to speak and act for themselves and the two dimensional character sketches take on a life and become three dimensional.

I’ve often wondered if it’s the same for other writers. Do they know exactly what will happen in their story or are they like me, having an idea which is subject to change as the plot and characters begin to take shape. Did Thomas Hardy know exactly what would happen to Tess before he began writing his classic or did she tell him what to write? Most of us will never write a best seller, in fact, lots of prospective best sellers never get from the authors hands and are never seen by anyone except the writer themselves. For me, as I’ve said many times before, it’s about the writing process. The immersion in something which takes over and writes the twists and turns itself. Having said that if there are any agents or publishers out there that want to offer me a book deal I’d be willing to share my work with them 🙂

Happy writing and good luck as the month progresses to all other NaNoWriMo’s.