Going Over to the Dark Side

© 1977 LucasFilm.Ltd
© 1977 LucasFilm.Ltd
Yes, I have seen the Dark. I now see the folly of my Pure Inspiration belief. I once believed in sitting down at a keyboard in November and starting to type. I believed that somehow, someday, if I wrote 50,000 words with roughly the same characters throughout, they would magically become a publishable novel.

I have converted. I am no longer a Pantser. I have become a Plotter.

A novice Plotter, I’ll admit, barely beginning on the Dark Path, but I have been convinced by looking at those I truly admire in the writing world. Whether traditionally published or self-published, NONE of these people sit down at a keyboard with NO PLAN, and a few weeks to months later a finished novel comes out.

Not one.

No. If I want to write novels for a living, I have to plan them. I have to face the fact that if I’m writing without a plan, either it’s a bit of short fiction, or it’s just an exploration that may or may not be worth building a novel on.

So, yeah, my current Mars “novel” is 50,000 words of exploration. It’s not a novel. Not yet. Not by a long shot.

On the other hand, I sat down with my premise (a premise! An actual one-sentence premise!), my sparse notes, my research and 50K worth of scenes and started serious world-building today.

I haven’t had so much fun at work since the bullying boss got covered with copier toner.

I’m excited by writing again! Despite having read three books about writing that clearly told me I probably needed to rewrite from the beginning, I’ve been trying to avoid it and salvage the old draft, but no more! I’m having more fun than puppies, and I’m looking forward to being able to build this thing right!

The Righteous Way of Pure Inspiration may give eventual rewards, but the Plotting Dark Side has more fun.

How NOT to Write a NaNoWriMo Novel…

…if you ever want to do anything with it.

Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for the 50,300 words I produced in November. But next time (and there will be a next time) I will work somewhat differently.

I probably won’t have more than a scrawled paper semi-outline in advance, no more than I had this time. (I am what NaNoWriMo veterans call a “pantser”, i.e. someone who only has the vaguest idea of what they want to write before they start.) BUT —

I will create an outline as I go along. Let me explain.

In order to make keeping track of my word count easy, I broke my novel into thirty 1,667 word chunks. Each chunk represented a nominal day’s output. Even when I was behind, I would break my novel at the arbitrary 1,667 word boundary, thus when I had thirty chunks, I was done. Each chunk had a name that more-or-less represented what was happening in the narrative when I started that chunk, but which had pretty much no relationship to what was happening in the narrative at its end. These were each part of a Scrivener project, so that my output looks like it’s a thirty chapter novel, in which each chapter has one scene. In fact, each “chapter” has between two and five scenes. (A scene change being defined as a change in time, place or both.) Some scenes are split across a chunk boundary. And I have to open them up and read them to figure out what is going on in them.

What a mess.

Next time I will break my narrative after each scene. So if my setting changes, I will begin a new section. If there is a gap in time, I will begin a new section. I will give each section a descriptive name, and a brief synopsis. I will not break a section in the middle of a scene. Then, when it comes time to revise, I will have scenes of my novel separate and identifiable, ready to move around into a real outline. I take a solemn oath that I will never again spend two weeks reading chunks, splitting out scenes, naming them, and writing synopses for them, when it would have taken me two minutes tops for each scene to have done it while I was writing.

The good news is that I am about 30% done with this process, and as I get more practice with it, it’s going faster. I may have my scene breakdown in a week or so. sighs

I suppose this is learning by experience. While a useful process, it never fails to suck.