Today we’re just under two weeks until National Novel Writing Month in November.
If you’re planning on taking the plunge this year, it’s probably time to start doing your preparatory homework – outlining, research, and the rest – if you haven’t gotten into it yet. Since I’m already in the thick of writing my novel, I’ll be using the month to spur me on toward the finish line. My guess is that 50,000 words won’t get me across, but it’ll help a lot toward achieving my goal. (Anyone who knows me has gotten used to the inevitable Triciaitis. Why have forty chapters when you can have fifty?)
One of the problems that has been plaguing me is my inability to write out of sequence. I can map plots and profile characters well ahead of time, but for some reason the actual words of the story have always had to come in the order it would be experienced by the reader. Even with a clear design of where the story is going, and sometimes scenes toward the end of the story visible in my mind’s eye, it’s never worked for me to sit down and write scenes from the end before I’ve finished the beginning and the middle.
One time, I wrote an extremely complicated story that alternated back and forth between the present and the past. Even though I had it all mapped out separately, the muse simply shut down when I tried to write the past sequentially or the present without the intercutting flashbacks. I’ve cursed Lex a time or two because that technique works just fine for him. Unfortunately, he probably cursed me more when we collaborated on a novella because I wouldn’t let him write ahead. (I actually wrote one of the more complicated action sequences, and he had to write introspection from a female character’s POV.) In the end, though, it worked out just fine because we didn’t end up switching off chapters like originally planned, and instead challenged ourselves to pick the chapters that might not have been easiest or the most natural for our style.
The long and short is that although writing is about getting words on the page, each author has to write in the way that works best for you.
Beyond the linear storytelling affliction that torments me as a writer, I’ve also found myself tweaking the existing chapters of my novel these past few weeks. Sometimes in my head, sometimes on the page. No major rewrites yet, but I think it’s really important that these characters are established in a way that will resonate with lots of people. It’s the small details that matter.
Part of the challenge I’ve found is that telling a heroine’s journey doesn’t exactly fit into the Campbellian model of a hero’s journey. I’ve sort of known that instinctively for some time, but it wasn’t until listening to and reading the words of a broad range of female fans that I’ve started to put a finger on what that difference would be. Luckily for me, getting immersed in the Geek Girl Con atmosphere ended up binding all my ideas into what I think is a cohesive formula. More on the heroine’s journey later…
Who’s joining the writing fray next month?
A graduate of Duke University, Tricia is a registered Professional Engineer who designs transportation systems as a consultant. In her free time, she shows horses and maintains a website for Star Wars EU fans that creates a safe place for women and men to discuss literature and all things pertaining to geek culture. She is currently writing her first full-length original novel, a space opera based around the heroic journey of a young woman who finds herself in the middle of a deadly terrorist attack by an invading alien force. For information on the book, please check out TriciaBarr.com.
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