Sunday, November 6, 2011

NaNoWriMo #6: Revising Your Plans

Always have a smiley face in your story schematic


Day Six of NaNoWriMo. Nearly a week down, three and a half to go. By now, you may be asking yourself questions: can I do this? Maybe you’ve fallen behind on your word count. Maybe you’ve written yourself into a corner. Maybe your protagonist is turning out to be less interesting than he original promised and the villain is threatening to take over the story. What if you need to revise your NaNoWriMo goals? Don’t break out in a cold sweat. Valerie Patterson, author of YA novel The Other Side of Blue, is here to help.

Setting a Goal:
The goal is to keep moving ahead on a project, and not try to revise as you go.  Treat Nov as permission to just write and send the editor away.  If you need to note where something isn't working, or where a scene needs to be inserted, or you're changing a character's name...just put a sticky note on a print out...or an e-insert in word and move on. 

At the same time, the goal should also be realistic.  Things happen....work, health, children, an editor says revise your old novel, etc.  If a novel in a month is too much (well, yes, sometimes it is), there's no reason not to create a goal of your own that is realistic but still a challenge.

Okay, So How much?

1.  An entire manuscript.  The official NaNoWriMo goal is 50,000 words in 30 days.  200 pages.  That's an average of 1666.66 words a day.  About 6.6 pages a day. 

2.  A partial manuscript.  A "half NaNoWriMo"--kind of like a half marathon.  100 pages.  3 1/3 pages a day on average.  Not easy but easier. 

3.  A detailed outline.  In her Book in a Month (BIAM) author Victoria Schmidt suggested if life is too much at the moment, don't try to write huge chunks.  Instead, focus on a detailed outline instead.  You could write the outline in the same basic frame that she suggests for a novel in a month.  Week 1=Act 1.  Weeks 2 &3=Act II.  Week 4=Act III.

4.  Revise a manuscript using same basic format.  Week 1=Act 1.  Weeks 2&3=Act II.  Week 4=Act III.

5.  Write 10 key scenes.  Another suggestion Schmidt suggests in her 30-day plan is on day 1 to write a one-sentence summary...On day two she suggests writing scene outlines. Based on her days as a filmmaker, she thinks the best movies have about 10-20 scenes total.  In a novel she suggests developing the story's ten KEY scenes--"opening scene, turning points scenes, climatic scene, etc."  There may be more scenes of course interspersed...but like a pearl necklace, the key scenes are the pearls...and the knots are the connecting scenes that may be needed later.  Scenes are not chapters...unless a chapter is just one scene.  Index cards are good, placing characters/setting/tone/mood/and scene objective on each card.  

Bottom Line:  Set a goal for yourself and stick to it.  Mark your progress on the calendar set up just for November.  Encourage your writing group members to meet their goals.  AIm for a celebration at the end of the month. Celebrate all successes--whether 50,000 words or something else.

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