Sunday, March 1, 2015

Write Your Novel Now! Week 1 Activities: Getting Started

Alright. It's Sunday and we're starting the 13 week novel. Three months and we'll all have a draft. Let's get moving...
Kill it in 13 weeks. Image: Vaguely Artistic on Flickr.
For this week:
It may look like a lot on this page, but it's really not. It's more about getting yourself ready for the writing life and starting the writing. I'm doing all this along with you.

Feel free to add comments on these activities (so that I can take them into consideration for revisions of this process) or post sections that you write.

1. Determine a writing routine. Figure out what you need to be a productive writer. Things to consider may be:
  • What time of day do you write best? What times are you free?
  • What days will you write? Set a schedule for yourself.
  • Where will you write? If at home, what room? How will you keep people (and cats) from interrupting your work? Establish boundaries. Do you need the quiet and distraction-free zone of an office? The library? I like either total isolation or so much noise that not even a screaming person is a distraction--thus, I like cafes. If in public, what do you need to bring with you? Do you need an assignment for yourself to help start out the process?
  • Will you write longhand first, or on a computer? Are you using a word processing program like Word, or do you prefer somethink Scrivener? If you want to explore novel writing software like Scrivener or One Note, do it now. Figure it out before you start. The last thing you need once you start is to get distracted looking for "the right" program. I recommend OpenOffice text documents. Simple. Free. 
  • Do you need a goal? A word count or page number or number of scenes?
  • What do you get distracted by? How will you keep those distractions at bay? Do you need to turn off the internet? Put a Do Not Disturb sign on your door? Remove yourself from people you know? Or do you just need to say, "I can't talk right now. I'll get back to you when I reach my daily writing goal." Sometimes it's that simple. 

2. Consider why you read and define this in writing
How do you see a novel differently from a poem, a short short, or a short story? How is it different from a film or television? What is unique about the novel to you? Where does a novel come from? What do you expect a novel to do for you? 

3. Think about your novel and write:
The characters–Who are they? What do you know about them right now?
The events–Define the inciting incident and some of the major plot points, and what you think is going to happen in the novel, generally.
The kind of novel you see it as. What genre is it--sci-fi, coming of age, adventure, paranormal, satire? Which masterplot might it be similar to?
What do you want your novel to do? How do you expect it to be read? When people read it, what do you want people to say about it? How will they describe it? Do you have a story question yet?

Even if you have done this before for the same novel, it's valuable to do this periodically throughout the process. As your novel evolves, some things become clearer and all should get more defined.

4. What novels are similar to yours?
Either in timeline, genre, or type of plot. Identify three or four books, pick one to start with, and start reading it. This is important! It's tempting to put reading on hold so you have more time to write, but if you skip this, you will be skipping a major piece in this whole process.

5. Read A&P by John Updike and The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. They're short. Consider images, glimpses into lives of others. Think about experience, observation, imagination.

6. Write: Observe your characters in their setting. Allow them to observe others. What do they think? How do they perceive those people? If you already know the characters well and you are in the midst of your story, have your characters slow down to have a new look at their world. What do they notice that they didn't see before? What have they been missing? Allow them time to feel the air around them. Sometimes a moment of respite allows them to move into a scene that you wanted, or it could surprise you with something you didn't know about.

7. Write again. Write a scene (or scenes) in your novel that is burning inside of you. Write to 2500* words, combining items 6 and 7.

Do it all by March 8th, because that's when Week 2 begins.

*Why so few words per week? Because no one wants to burn out after writing 50,000 words in a month. The point is to build a sustainable habit.

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  1. Hello!!

    I just found this but I am so happy!! I have been working on my novel FOREVER and I too would like my first draft to be finished this summer. I only have a few more major scenes to write and then I need to piece it all together and it just seems so terrifying! The thought of being so close to editing scares me. I'm afraid I'll hate it or think that it was dumb or boring. This novel project is the first writing adventure I have ever been proud of and actually want to finish and publish. So there is just a massive amount of pressure on it and that is probably why all writing has taken a break.

    1. Hi Sonya. The revision can actually be more enjoyable for some people. I'll admit, though, the fact that I commited in public to finishing my rough draft this June is anxiety inducing. Now I have to, right? But maybe if many of us are doing it at the same time it will help us diffuse all that energy and get us all done!