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The First Rule of Write Club

For the past two weeks, when not sending off job applications, most of my time has been spent writing another novel. I had intended to hold off until November and do it as a NaNoWriMo project, but for whatever reason the book said, “NOAP, you will write me NOW!” and so I have been. As of last night, I hit 20,000-ish words at the end of chapter seven, and I’m taking a “creative recharge and look back at the progress so far break” today before attacking chapter eight.

I have to say, I am very pleased with how the book is coming along, and as far as this story is concerned, it’s about damn time. This story started out as a nugget of my Arclight Adventures comic project, then morphed into my Coventry idea, then emerged as its own thing, then got shelved, then informed the creation of Rough Housing, then got shelved again, and now has finally re-asserted itself with forcefulness that will not be denied. Verity and Tanya want their story to be told, and they want it to be told in the right way, dammit! And when characters yell at me that loudly, well, I’d be a fool not to listen. The book is coming fast, and solid, and fun, but also with a lot more depth and texture to it than I expected. As I tweeted last night, I think this is going to be my best book yet, and this is the one I finally feel is a good candidate for publication.

The revamped Brigid and Greg novel is another good candidate, actually, and I may put that into the NaNoWriMo slot if this book is finished by then. That one would probably have been finished by now if the house sale hadn’t knocked me out of my groove.

A major factor in this level-up of my writing craft has been Scrivener, which has turned building an outline/story structure from a horrendous pain into an absolute joy. For both the B&G book and the new one, I have started with five notecards:

  • Act One: Setup

  • Act Two: Conflict

  • Act Three: Rising Action

  • Act Four: Catastrophe/Falling Action

  • Act Five: Denouement

Drilling down from each of these, I put in 4-6 more notecards with major story beats. On each of the story beat notecards, I then drill down and put 3-5 short scene summaries– not even whole sentences, just things like “Brigid and Isadora argue”. That whole process takes me a few days, and by the time I’m done I have a nice and solid skeleton to start hanging my story on. From there, it’s just writing out each scene as described in the summary, usually in a 500-1,500 word chunk, of which I can write around three on a “normal” working day and more on a really good day. Just looking at the math, you can see what happens: four scenes of 1,000 words each make a 4,000 word chapter; five chapters of 4,000 words each make a 20,000 word act; four acts of 20,000 words, plus a denouement that’s probably one or two chapters tops, make an 80,000-90,000 word novel.

(Of course, nothing ever goes completely to plan. In the current story, in order to twist the emotional knife on a particular scene, I decided to elevate something that was basically speed bump in my outline into a major catastrophe, which in turn made complications that had to be coped with, but which had not been factored into the original plan. Using Scrivener, that was relatively easy to fix, basically by just shoving in some more notecards for new scenes or chapter. Since it’s just shoving little pieces around at the outlining level, it doesn’t feel like major plot surgery.)

Anyway, I think that with this book, I will actually be making the transition from perennial dabbler to true professional novelist. Not just because of the quality of this piece, but because I now feel like I have the tools and the experience to repeat the performance. I can now confidently build a novel-length story, and I know both what I want out of the process and what the process will need out of me to pull it off. And honestly, I think that when I actually finish something my writing is as good as anybody’s out there.

Building an audience, translating these books into earning a living, and all that stuff, is something else I will need to tackle, of course, as is integrating all of this with my desire to keep Suburban Jungle alive. But those are all topics for another day.

-The Gneech


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 15th, 2015 06:22 pm (UTC)
Nice, you're also into five act structure :) so Scrivener is good, hmm? I'm interested. I'm soon to start on an eighth book for my MLP readers and I'm starting to get challenges dealing with structure using my paper notes. I'm on three pages of parallel outline in a notebook and a few stray paper notes, and it's taking on a form that begs for more of a 'writing tool', given that I'm already using the functionality actively.
Aug. 15th, 2015 07:14 pm (UTC)
Yes, Scrivener is very good. :) Snowflake is good too, although between the two I've come to like Scrivener a bit more– I actually hop back and forth between the two for keeping notes. (My character lists etc. are in Snowflake, atm.)

Here's a quickie introduction to give you an idea what it's like.

Aug. 15th, 2015 07:56 pm (UTC)
Thanks, that does look good. I worry about it becoming too fiddly (currently using the original WriteRoom and paper notes) but I can't help but notice I'm spending a lot of time and energy on the paper note and card organizing. Since I'm already spending the time on it… ;)
Aug. 15th, 2015 08:07 pm (UTC)
It's only as fiddly as you need it to be. ;) That said, if you're a born fiddler, it can be a seductive time-sink. But that's true of any tool.

Aug. 15th, 2015 07:22 pm (UTC)
If you need a reader, I'm willing to help out.
Aug. 15th, 2015 07:26 pm (UTC)
All righty, you should be able to see the beta reader posts now. :) Please keep 'em confidential.

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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