So, how's the outlining going? I started a few weeks ago, then tried to push myself to add a little every day, but it wasn't working. So I took two weeks off. I'm now back and amazed at how much my novel idea changed from my original thought. That's one of the things I find useful about getting my thoughts on paper, it frees me to expand, change, and play with the ideas. Successful Novel Plotting (Secrets to Success Writing Series) (Jean Saunders) "But once your plot is thought through and written down on paper, you can look at it, study it, discard any false trails that hinder the forward flow of the story, and add any sudden inspirational thoughts that come to you. They will, of course, because by now your imagination is in full flow. Then youre really on your way. I will repeat a key sentence. Get it down on paper. Its amazing how alive your vague ideas will look when theyre in written form. You have something concrete in front of you. You can see the shape of things to come; the final story will begin to emerge from that jumble of thoughts that you never thought would form a plot, let alone a published book."
Writing Your Way: The Great American Novel Track (Julie Smith) "Don't give us too much of anything at a time. No big blocks of talk-talk-talk. No giant chunks of exposition, and please, if you're going to have two or more bar fights, weddings, chases, love scenes, or discoveries of valuable objects, put lots of other action in between."
I'm including things here that I'm cutting from my prep session. At this point, I'm cutting to improve the flow of the talk, not because the advice isn't useful. So, thought I'd share some of them here.
Feel free to comment on this, or any of the other items. Having a bit of discussion about writing advice can be useful before November.
How I are Becomed a Very Much Gooder Author (Sevastian Winters) "I find the story in examining what the character wants, what's keeping them from having it, or in their quirk, or a combination of those three points."
Writing Your Way: The Great American Novel Track (Julie Smith) "Yes, by all means put weather in! But don't just tell me it's raining. Make me feel the sodden weight of a wall of water driven by winds so hard they blow your eyelids back in your head. If a Santa Ana's blowing, make my hair curl and my nerves jump and my skin itch. Are you getting the idea? For that knock-your-socks-off effect, talk not just about the weather, but it's effect on us."
Inspired Creative Writing (Alexander Gordon Smith) "ASSOCIATION This more subtle form of description leaves the interpretation to the reader, but can be much more effective than a simple list of physical attributes. Everybody could see the silver crucifix coiled around the barrel, and tucked beneath it, creased so many times it was barely recognisable, the photo of his baby daughter. These small details in the scene provide hints to the characters motives and psychology. They are descriptive, but they also suggest a little more: the crucifix could signify the mans honourable motives, the photo justifies the revenge. Association can be reversed, however, so dont always use it conventionally."
How to Write a Great Story (Othello Bach) "As the story plot progresses, your character's emotions will change. When things are going well, she will feel good and see the whole world as wonderful. When life is not going well, her point of view will darken. Just as you see situations differently when you are upset, so will your character. Both actions and emotions shift."
How would your main character react to several common incidents such as: a) a tall, burly guy with body odor problems bumps into them deliberately b) your characters sees a gold-colored metal disk lying on the ground in front of them in a public place where there are a fair number of people (but no one else appears to see the disk) c) an attractive stranger appears out of nowhere and says, "Darling!" and kisses them
I would love to outline, but I abandon outlines. I think trying to force outlining made my last Nano story suffer a bit; I think I tried to figure too much out first without letting the story guide me. I have general ideas, so my outline is very short and rough. I keep trying out new ideas, I'm definitely open to outlining, but so far, not much luck. I wrote a 58k draft in seven weeks over the summer on a fairly rough outline, just general plot points that needed to be hit.
I will continue to soak up all this advice, it's always welcome :)
This year, I'm trying out a non-outlining kind of prep that I'm thinking of as a 'sandbox' approach.
Basically, it's just worldbuilding.I'm brainstorming up all kinds of things that /can/ happen in this world, places that /might/ exist, animals and monsters that may or may not ever appear in the book. This sort of thing can easily go hand-in-hand with an outline, and I do usually have at least a rough one--but this year, I am purposefully not doing an outline. Not even making characters yet, though I will probably at least pick a few names and stick a few attributes together last thing before Nov1.
I have no plan of attack, no idea where the story might start, let alone where it might go. Just giving myself lots of space for a story to happen in, and lots of tools that I can reach for if it gets stuck.
Will it be a confusing, aimlessmess? Almost certainly. But I'm hoping that things will happen that I never would have thought of for an outline. I'll let you know how it goes!
And if I spend all of November hopelessly adrift, I hereby officially give the outliners permision to 'tsk' at me.
(I will, however, keep watching for outlining advice for a few back-burner stories that need that kind of structure)
This year I'm using the notecard approach. I've got a few sets of cards, all color coded. Aside from characters and places, I've also got a small set detailing some of theplot pointsin the novel. My main character, Emi,gets stuck owing a debt to Chance, which Chance decides will be paid off in the form of favors. The favors drive both the novel's plot and Chance's schemes. From there, I built my novel using a single card for each scene. I'm about 35 scenes in.
Unfortunately, those 35 scenes don't include a subplot I was planning (I got carried away with the main plot) and I have to completely redo them to bring a secondary character forward more since I totally forgot about her entire subplot.
Some of what she advocates resonates strongly with me (I am sure ones mileage depends on many factors) because I've experienced it myself: if I block out a scene, jotting down the main actions and points the characters make, it is a lot easier and quicker to write that scene afterwards, vs. trying to make everything up as I go and also as I write. In a way, it is like a two step approach to drawing, where one lightly does the framing in pencil before doing the inking or painting with the finished strokes.
Tangentally, a counter-argument for Hamlet's main flaw being "too clever for his own damn good."http://www.apex-magazine.com/welcome-to-the-reformation-bitches/ (Forgive the lack of link, I'm on a tablet.) Really good characters can have multiple explanations, even if they spend half the damn time explaining themselves to you.
As for outlining - a detailed outline certainly helped me finish last year, but it also constrained me from developing some of the subplots I now wished I'd done. This year I'm starting with a broad sketch of the plot, some detailed characters and worldbuilding, and some benchmarks of where I want to be in the story by what day and wordcount. Hopefully this will still give me enough forward momentum to keep going while allowing me a little more freedom.
So far I'm working on some character sheets, some pretty extensive background info that may or may not make it in. I've also found it helpful to write out a one line pitch beforehand. A good pitch should show the crux of the conflict rather than a meandering sentence about characters and details. I might try the idea of blocking a scene--listing plot points that need to be hit ahead of time. This is radical thinking for me!!