National Novel Writing Month is just about finished. We are heading into the backstretch and through the turn to the home stretch and finish line. I hope you are on track for where you want to be, whatever that is. This time around, I have been doing quite well and will probably hit my 50K before the end of the month. If you are not there, and fear you may not get there, no worries. There have been years that I have struggled as well. This year, I am having fun (mostly) with the story, so it is going quickly.
And, yet, you may ask: Okay, so you wrote a novel in a month? Now, what do you do? Well, first, let me tell you that what I wrote is by no means a finished novel. It is a rough, rough first draft. For one thing, fifty thousand words is a bit on the short side for most fiction these days, especially sci-fi. Not that you can’t write a brilliant story that people want to read in 50K, but expectations are for more than that. What I aim for in November, is to finish with the bare skeleton of a story. It should have a beginning, most of a middle, and an end. If I haven’t got that, I keep going into December and get to that end. I should have my story “done”, so I will tell you how I approach things from that point.
The first thing I will do is make sure my workbook for this story is up-to-date. I use a workbook format I learned in a writing course I took years ago, with a few tweaks. I am also using yWriter for this project. I use the scene description feature in yWriter as my outline, of sorts. So, each description gives the main plot point in that scene. I can print a report that lists all of the chapters with each scene’s description. A little format tweaking, and I drop that into the workbook’s chapter outline section. It also has sections for things like characters, research, notes, and other details. I update the workbook as needed as I go along. For example, I realized at one point that I really need my MC to have much more of an attitude to work in this story. I did not stop and rewrite her whole throughline. I made a note in the workbook to remind me. There are other things in there, also, that I will find useful when revising. The same goes for the research section. If I find I need to know the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow, I don’t stop and ask King Google right there. (Because, you know, if I do, I will just get bogged down in questions of European or African swallows, coconuts, and other silly things.) I put it in the research section for later. That way, I don’t interrupt the flow of the story, but I also don’t fret about the question. It will be there to be answered later.
After that, I will take some time off from this project. I do this for a couple reasons. One, of course, is that we are running full tilt into the holiday season now, and that is always a hectic time of year. I will have this draft finished before our family Thanksgiving dinner (this year on November 29), so I can relax for the weekend. And, then, the Christmas joy begins, and I would like to take the time to enjoy as much as I can. Like any other job, sometimes you need a break. That’s why employers give vacation time.
The second reason I will set this story aside is that I firmly believe that you should let a fresh project sit aside before you start to revise. I, at least, am too close to the story when I finish one round of either drafting or revising. I’m still in love with the clever bits of dialogue, the intense scenes, and the characters themselves. Or, at least, I should be. Which is good, but it makes it more difficult to be brutal when need be, and to kill those darlings that must be killed. So, letting it mellow for a bit allows me to come back with fresh eyes and a bit of distance. Then I can work on the revisions with a clearer idea of where the story is heading.
Now, this is not to say I will not be writing. I’m not taking a month or so off. I will take a few days at the end of the month for Thanksgiving with the family, and I will take some time in December for Christmas. Other than that, well, there are other projects in the pipeline. Some that got set aside to concentrate on this month of madness, some that needed to be set aside for the reasons outlined above, and there are a couple things that have been niggling at my brain for a while now. So I will keep writing. And come back to this novel after a few weeks, ready to dive in and flesh out that skeleton and bring the monster to life.
Happy NaNoWriMo, everyone! Keep writing- it’s almost over for another year. Win or not, you are writing and that, after all, is the important part.