Saturday, November 16, 2013

Na No Wri Mo: The Next Eleven Months

Last year, I successfully wrote 50,000 words in during National Novel Writing month, but I'm far more proud of what I did over the next eleven months, I turned those 50,000 words into a 90,000 word novel. Here's how you can do it too.

The key to getting through National Novel Writing Month is cranking out about 2,000 words a day. It is also important to know what the 2,001st word will be--when you finish, you have to have a good idea of where you will go next. If you can do that, you can survive the month.

Mario Puzo who wrote the novel, The Godfather, once said" the secret to writing is re-writing." Truman Capote allegedly once told someone "That's not writing, that's type writing." It's no secret that you haven't written a real novel during National Novel Writing Month, you've type written 50,000 words. So how do you re-write those words into a novel?

Start by re-reading what you've already got. Not as good as you thought, is it? So now what? Time to get carded...Some people like using index cards, if you're one of them. Use index cards to outline each scene-- what happens, what characters did in each scene, and how people changed if anything. Does the story flow logically? Does each character progress along their character arc in a logical fashion.

For example, I once had four scenes-- and I had to try several different orders to make them work. In the final version, the hero realizes that he truly loves his girlfriend, his girlfriend betrays him, he goes down to visit a client, and with nothing left to lose, he vows to save his client and thus impress his girlfriend that he is a man. He can't make the vow before he loses the girl or he can't lose the girl before he realizes he loves her.

There are some scenes that don't advance the plot but are so good that they can remain anyway. One of my favorite scenes in cinema is the helicopter raid in Apocalypse Now with the March of the Valkries. Plotwise, it can be taken out of the story. None of the major characters does much in it. However, the scene is just soooo damn good. Let yourself have one and only one scene that doesn't advance the lot, as long as it is that good.

After you play with the order of scenes, it's time to start writing again. You can add some jokes if you want, and take away the jokes that don't work. You can also do "call backs." If you had a good bit of dialogue on page 4, you might want to "call back" to it on page 49, and use that line to indicate how the characters have changed. In Star Wars, there was the whole bit of "I love you" and "I know."

When you get to the ending, you want to avoid what I call a "Scooby Doo" ending where a minor character turns out to be the chief antagonist all along, for reasons that are explained in passing. Is your ending supported by the rest of the story?

See you all on December 1st!

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