As I mentioned in my review of Save the Cat!, the value of any how-to book is whether it inspires you to take action. For the past several months, I have been stalled out and completely avoiding working on my werewolf novel, The Cold Nothing Taste of Winter. After drafting about two-thirds of the book, plot problems proliferated and I didn’t know how to move forward toward the ending. Since a lot of my fellow writers have been recommending Save the Cat! recently, it seemed like a good idea to give it a read and see if it sparked the flame of progress once again.
It did just that.
Here are a few of the tools from the book I’m using to try to build forward momentum.
I did not quite meet NaNo word goal for the week, as I’ve been skipping writing days during the work week. Things are getting hectic at my day job, since we have to go to press with our December issue before Thanksgiving and there is a lot of work to do.
But I made it through Chapter 16 on the novel and I’m happy with the progress of the story.
On Saturday, I inadvertently skipped a day of Nablopomo. I created the post for Saturday, but saved it as a draft instead of posting it, so it ended up being posted on Sunday instead. Whoops. I’ve made it up by posting two posts today, however.
In the mix of this, I managed to do two of my three workouts last week. I feel good about this. With all the sitting at my computer, though, I can also feel my spin and muscles tightening up, reminding me that I need to get back to doing my morning yoga.
Current Project: Under the Midday Moon (Novel Word Count Before Starting Nanowrimo: 13,010)
Goal: Complete 50,000 New Words and Hopefully the First Draft New Words This Week: 8,252 Total NaNoWriMo Word Count: 22,807
Random Rough Sentences: Now, the sun was behind the trees and the sky was illuminated with pink, peach, and red, making the snow blush between the elongated shadows of the trees. Mom and I both stood on the porch, watching the sky with the plastic we’d used to cover the broken window flapping slightly behind us.
“I think we should get out of here,” said mom.
Novelling Notes: I don’t have any deep thoughts at this time. I’m pleased with the progress I’m making and how the story is starting to take shape in my mind. Lots of chapters begin and end with “Author’s Notes” pointing out changes I’ll need to make in the editing process.
Along with two strength training workouts and a couple of walks with my sisters and niece, progress continues on the novel. I fell behind on the word count after skipping a couple of days, and so have been playing catch up over the weekend. Now, I’m just about on target again. I would prefer to be ahead of the game, but really it doesn’t matter, because I’ve written more words in this week than I’ve done in months. I have high hopes that I might actually be able to finish the entire draft by the end of the year, if not in November.
Current Project: Under the Midday Moon (Novel Word Count Before Starting Nanowrimo: 13,010)
Goal: Complete 50,000 New Words and Hopefully the First Draft New Words This Week: 6,920 Total NaNoWriMo Word Count: 14,555
Random Rough Sentences: The cold was soothing. The sky was black, stars hidden by clouds that smelled like coming snow. The trees beyond the porch light were full of shadows and it would be easy to imagine some creature hiding out there, waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting teenagers. But all I could smell was mud and dead leaves and the leavings of a moose that must have passed by hours ago.
Novelling Notes: Ever since I decided to make a massive plot change to my story, I’ve been seeing a domino effect going through scenes both before and after the plot point that was changed. I was just thinking back to a scene in Chapter Two, which I was particularly fond of, and realized it would have to go, because now it that scene impossible.
I feel like things are progressing well though, even with all the rewriting I’ll have to do, I is a wonderful, wonderful thing to see the story coming together and taking a kind of shape I can work with.
Some writers avoid talking about what they’re working on with anyone, and my understanding is that this is because they feel they loose the excitement of discovering and writing the story when they tell it.
I personally find the opposite is true. While I’m writing, especially in the first draft stage, talking out the story can be incredibly helpful, helping me to plan out where I’m going. Of course, whomever I’m talking to often has many ideas of where they think I should take the story (most of them not right), but even hearing the wrong ideas can help me weed out the right ones.
During lunch yesterday, I was talking the story with a coworker and telling them what I had planned. One if my characters is attacked, and my coworker leapt to an assumption about the identity of the “villain”.
I explained that I had originally planned to write it that way, but had changed to another option. “But I’ve been thinking of changing it back,” I said. “Because I feel like I’ve been pulling my punches do it this way. That I’ve been playing it safe.”
“You are,” she said. “Just hearing the first version was compelling.”
“Yeah,” I said, and thought to myself, well, fuuuuuuuuuuu—.
Because damn it, she was right.
Of course, now all the planning I’ve done has to be tossed out the window and I have no ideas of how to finish this novel. I’m also going to have to make changes in the beginning sections to make these changes work. And the first scenes I ever wrote for this thing before I knew it was going to be a novel, the ones that kicked it all off, will just about have to be trashed entirely. (“Kill your darlings,” the wisdom goes.)
But I’m grateful to have figured this out now. Actually, I’m right at the pivot point in writing the current draft where this change would have to occur. Instead of turning left, I just have to turn right in the plotting. This will save me tones of time during revisions.
Of course taking this plot turn is scary, and that’s how I know it’s probably right. I’m not sure I’m good enough to pull it off, not sure I can make readers believe, not sure I’ll be able to do that much damage to my main character. I don’t really want to twist the knife (metaphorically speaking) once I’ve jammed it into her belly, but I’m gonna have to.
Right now, I’m trying not to flail.
I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening mentally working out how to make the change work, and allowed myself a break from writing. I think I’ve got some of it worked out, but have no idea how to end it. I guess I’ll discover that when I get there.
When you’re writing do you talk the story out? Or do you keep it to yourself until the draft is finished?
Alternatively, have you ever caught yourself pulling your punches while writing a story? Or do you always go for the guts?
The Daily Post has a great blog up called, “Should You Let the Cats Out of the Bag? Blogging About Family and Friends,“ which deals with privacy and the internet, how much you should share and not share, especially in regards to the lives of friends and family. It has some great questions to ask yourself before posting and some tips on how to handle the sharing of private information in a respectful way.
Things are going well in Nano land and I’ve met and even exceeded (with the exception of Monday) all my daily word count goals. Over the weekend, I managed this by making writing my priority when I first get up in the morning. Then, once I’ve met my minimum I allow myself to get out of the house and go do something fun. For example, on Saturday I went and played with my niece at the park (a cuter child never existed!) and on Sunday I walked around the farmer’s market with my sister. All good things.
I intended to come back from the fun times and get back to writing, but found I didn’t have it in me to do any more writing those days. Since I had already met my daily word goals, I just let myself relax — something I really needed.
Current Project: Under the Midday Moon (Novel Word Count Before Starting Nanowrimo: 13,010) Goal: Complete 50,000 New Words and Hopefully the First Draft New Words: 7,635 Total NaNoWriMo Word Count: 7,635 Random Rough Sentences: N/A (laptop got left at home and I don’t have access to my drafts at the moment).
Novelling Notes: I’m still having trouble balancing all the little threads of plot and relationships. When two characters are alone in a room together, everything else just disappears. For some scenes that’s okay. For others, I think it makes it so that people forget everything else that is supposed to be going on. Though maybe that’s just my impression, and readers might have a different experience. Now I’m trying to get a better balance of the people and their concern for one another into the scenes.
I’m also getting a better feel for the relationships themselves, which in previous chapters had come off as a bit flat. I’m hoping the relationships seem more interconnected and messy and multidimensional now, but until I get feedback, it’s kind of hard for me to tell.
Advice for Nano-ers:
Try to push past the daily minimum in order to build up a word count cushion. That way, if you have to miss a day later in the month, then it’s not such a big deal.
Get the writing done first, then allow yourself to get outside and play, or even just relax. I find that mental breaks from all the writing helps me be more focused when I return to the work.
Things To Be accomplished in the Coming Week:
Write a minimum of 10,000 words
Do three workouts (1/3)
Good Reading: Over at The Bell Jar is a lovely post called “Learning to Love My Nose,” which talks about body perception. It’s a fantastic read, and one that made me want to try to love myself more and judge others less.
Current Project: Under the Midday Moon New Words: 2,292 Current Total Word Count: 13,010 Goal: Put together an workable draft of the novel that I would actually let someone read. Accomplished: Chapter Six, which is halfway done.
Random Rough Sentence(s): I turned my head. Evan’s face loomed large in front of me, blurring every time he moved too fast. His blue eyes were too big and too close. He smiled, dimples swallowing up shadows. He brushed a strand of hair behind my ear. “I like you, Claire. You’re beautiful.”
Notes: I decided to skip right over Chapter Five in an effort to get to the more exciting and fun scenes. This led me to Chapter Six, which involved a bunch of teenagers at a party and I hope some character evolution. I love one of the scenes in this chapter, but feel so-so about others.
I don’t know. I feel like I’m one of those writers, who is sure it’s all wrong until I go back and see how it all fits together during the rewrite. And that’s okay. That’s part of the process, I suppose. At least for me.
The point is to keep going, and while it’s slow, that’s what I’m doing. So in that sense, I feel good.
Current Project: Under the Midday Moon New Words: 1,860 Current Total Word Count: 10,718 Goal: Put together an workable draft of the novel that I would actually let someone read. Accomplished: Finished Chapter Four!
Random Rough Sentence(s): I dribbled, starting slow until I got into a tempo, then passed the ball hand to hand and between my legs, back and forth, back and forth, dancing foot to foot with the ball tapping out a rhythm against the floor, the sound echoing through the nearly empty gym.
Notes: Well, I’m glad that’s done, though I still feel like I’m stuck in pre-action chapters, and I really can’t wait until I get past this part to the meat of the story. Though, if I’m totally honest with myself, I’d admit that that feeling might never go away. *sigh*