Thursday, February 26, 2015

Write Your Novel Draft Now! Are You Ready?

Deadline Looms
Deadlines. Blergh. Image: Bora Bora on Flickr.
I've been working on this damned novel for long enough and I've got the deadline for finishing the rough draft set for the beginning of June.

Because I prefer the rewrite.

Because I come from literary land where we were entirely unconcerned with plot and I have always struggled with it.

Because I like fully immersing myself in a scene and imagining every little detail and making artful sentences that are their own story.

But you know what? A novel isn't so much about sentences, not like short stories.

Novels are more about scenes and narrative.

A Novel Project in the Experimental Stages

If you're at all like me, over 300 pages in and still trying to figure out how characters will get to The End, then maybe you'd like to join me in a little endeavor here.

Or if you are just getting ready to start a novel, you might be in an even better position to take part.

I spend a lot of time with other writers. People who have taken all sorts of writing classes, gotten their undergraduate degree in writing or an MFA, and still don't know how the #%@* to write a novel. Most programs don't discuss this. I know mine didn't. They didn't think we were ready. What happens then, is you walk out knowing how to craft short stories really well, but the novel is a very different form, and we feel our way through.

I was at the Desert Nights, Rising Stars Conference last week and Gail Tsukiyama, who has seven published novels, was talking about figuring out how to write a novel when she admitted that she still doesn't know, really. Maybe a little more than she did with her first book, but she still can't say how.

That is how I think novels are. Every one of them is different and you have to find a new way through with each one. Some of them are big struggles and some practially write themselves (like my first one which I haven't yet revised). But this one throws me for a loop every time I sit down to write.

So as I've been discussing this with writers who are still confounded with the idea of writing a novel, I've admitted that I've been wanting to set up a novel draft seminar. 

And I think I'm going to figure it out here.

Now this is an experiment. I haven't published that first novel, so you know I'm no expert. I'm just working through it, like anyone else. I'm taking ideas from others, probably a good deal from Cathy Day, and from my own little writing brain. Take it or leave it. 

If you decide to take it, the worse case scenario is that you got some writing done. Or you think my plan is a waste and you don't stick with it. (That's right: You admit defeat and give up. Are you willing to do that?)

The best case is that you get a condensed first draft of your novel done. (And I do, too.)

Here's the Plan:

It's designed around my goal of finishing my draft at the beginning of June, so it will be on a three-month schedule, beginning on March 1st.
  • 2500 words a week for 13 weeks--it's not a lot, but it will give you 130 pages to work with and expand into the next draft. The point is for you to keep going, to participate in activites that support your novel-writing abilities, to not burn out, and to have a life--because living a life is invaluable in working through your story.
  • Read books. Some people don't do this while writing, but I believe it's invaluable in finding solutions to problems we have in writing.
  • Diagram one or two books. (Use Scrivener or notecards or pen and paper or whatever works for you.)
  • I'll post exercises here to help move all of us along. I'll be doing them, too.
It doesn't matter whether your novel is in progress or you are just starting it. 
I think the plan will work either way.

Now the question is whether you will take this challenge. 
We're all guinea pigs in this experiment. Image: Rene van Belzen on Flickr.

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