In September, I wrote a new draft and began the revision of last year’s NaNoWriMo novel. I noticed that I tend to sprint through action – light on details and motivations – until I get to 30K words, then I have to pad back in to make up for this.
When this happened with the NaNo novel in 2013, I thought it was due to lack of planning – a sparse outline without enough thought to the subplots. When it happened again in my September work (which I planned significantly more), I realized that this was a fairly good indication of my standard pace.
Now that we’re two days into this year’s National Novel Writing Month, I am trying a new kind of process. I tend to write over the 1,667-word daily goal for the first 2 weeks of the month. I enjoy digging into the story. Instead of dashing into the next chapter when I have a few moments to spare for words, I’m letting myself sit with the scene I’ve just finished. I’m letting myself reread (which I never do) and fleshing out the current scene.
I think that’s how I’m going to attempt to do this month’s project. It might end up with precisely thirty chapters, and I’m okay with that. I think once I’ve finished the chapter and word count for the day, I will stop moving forward in the action until the following day. If I go over the 1,667 it will be within the same scene I’ve just written.
My hypothesis about this different approach:
- That sticking with one scene and chapter per day will still feel like a manageable pace
- That by spending time on the same day in the same scene, I will be able to better flesh out the details of each scene, helping make the rewrite process a little easier
- I will most likely exceed the 50K word count target
I know that I can rough out a draft in 2-3 weeks. I’ve done it three times now. I am learning about how to make that draft as usable and revisable as possible when I return to it.
Outlining is part of that. I’ve sworn to never “pants” again (writing “by the seat of one’s pants” without planning beats or outlining – which is how Salvaged took 10 drafts to write.)
I’ve also learned that writing every day and sticking with the project all they way through the end is important.
I love using Holly Lisle‘s “Sentence” technique – it helps me drill the plot down to a usable nugget, and it gives me something to return to when I lose my way. (Those sentences make good Twitter-pitches and query opening lines later, too!) In fact, I’m thinking about crafting the query for this piece as I write and plan it, to keep the focus sharp and tight.
Through all of this, I hope to learn how long it takes me to finish a novel from the idea-spark to the point I’m willing to start querying it. Eventually, I’m going to sell something, and someone’s going to know how long until the sequel will be ready. I’d like to have that figured out.