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Wednesday, September 14, 2011


At almost 52,000 words, my novel is in the final lap toward completion. I had stalled as of my last post, but gained momentum when I just sat down and started writing. So here I am, giving a quick update to say that I'm doin' the writing I avoided for so long.

I could probably crank out one of these books in a couple months if the silly call of the real world would allow such a pace. However, I'll settle for the stumbling blocks that became platforms to learning and growing as both a writer and a person.

I also settled for a loose mapping-out of the remaining events of the book for tonight's progress instead of my usual organic writing method that may not have tied up the loose ends as I would have liked. The result is a concise action-climax and resolution map that will ensure I don't forget the major events. I also managed (or realized) a few surprising tie-ins with the next novel and made more specific notes in my trusty Notes doc. It's like the story decided its course years ago, and I just had to get my butt in gear to record it, with an "I'll be darned" kinda reaction from me.

I just realized that most of the above was disjointed. As I've learned a lot about my brain's particulars regarding my creative process, I'd hate to do it a disservice by being unclear. Consider the following for clarification.

So here's my novel-writing process, in varied POV, for retrospect and fine-tuning, as a compulsive list:

1. Format Volume Word Doc and Create Notes Word Doc.

2. Find and combine all the scattered notes, post-its, napkins, electronic docs, and other stuff into one jumbled mess and sort to make a story. Perhaps write it down longhand in the notebook assigned to such tasks.

3. Compose loose story outline in Volume Word Doc, as, you guessed it, a LIST of events!

4. Type Part and Chapter Headings into Volume Word Doc, separating outline list into logical chunks. Make at least a short note on what will happen in each chapter, if outline isn't specific.

5. Type a few starter Character Names and short descriptions into Notes Doc under a heading by the same name. Also make categories for World Details and Customs, etc, to help keep things in line. All uncategorized notes get dumped at the end of the Notes Doc for sorting or use later.

6. Decide on a starting point. Don't dwell. "Decide" is the operative word. Your protagonist could be staring at a freakin' flower for 10 minutes before you realize he should be doing something. But at least you're writing! Worry about Hitchcock's axiom in the editing process. (...the one about a good story being life with the boring parts removed, I think.)

7. Start writing! Keep a notebook and your Notes Doc open. If you get an itch of an idea that won't happen for a hundred pages, make a note of it. If something from three books down the line occurs to you, type it in. The point here is that, short of true writer's block, you should write when you sit down to write. Just don't let new or different ideas stall you out, or you'll never finish. Redirect that nagging or fleeting idea to a note and get back to what you intended to do in the first place. Flesh out big action or complex scenes as mini-outlines. Save often.

8. Note new character names and relationships in your Notes doc, as well as any customs, mannerisms, world details or other crap you may need to recall later. Nothing grinds writing to a halt like filtering through a hundred pages of writing for a tiny detail that you NEEEEEED before you can finish a sentence. If you can't come up with a new character name on the spot, type a long blank ________ or brackets and a description [So-and-so's sister], and come back to it in the editing process. Save often.

9. Make notes of plot developments either at the bottom of your Volume Word Doc or in a category of your Notes Doc. I keep a lot of plot notes and ideas at the bottom of the actual novel doc because as I write about the event, I cut and paste it into the Notes Doc. It's like checking tasks off a checklist. Save often.

10. Write a book that you would want to read. Don't be afraid of your audience, because you're the only audience right now. Chances are if YOU'RE wondering what will happen next and can't put your own book down, someone else will feel the same way. I feel like such a dork when I think "Wonder what'll happen next?" only to realize that I...have to...write it first. And... save often!

Hmmm... Nice to know the writing style that works for me evolved into a 10-Step-Process where I do most of the steps simultaneously and with little stress. How did I ever finish that whopper of a first novel without it??? (It was 160K words and has since been dismantled for a major rewrite later.) Oh, wait! This process evolved from that drudgery. As I said, stepping stones from stumbling blocks, or something.


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