Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Keep Up The Pace

As many of you know, November is National Novel Writing Month, or NANOWRIMO. To some, it's a pretty big deal. To others, not so much. I get hot and cold when it comes to NANO and have thrown my hat into the ring several times, never "winning." But from NANO came both Winter's Discord and Sisters of Khoda, so I guess that's a good thing. There is also a pile of bones that were poorly thought out novel ideas in the scrap heap that never even close to the required 50k to "win" NANO. I don't even think I signed up last November. I decided that this year I would participate again. The reason? Well, partially the fact that September and October were so busy at school, I didn't make nearly as much progress on the latest writing project as I would've liked, so I decided that November would be a good sprint to get a good chunk of what I'm calling The Point Guard and the Space Princess done. (YA scifi alien invasion) I wanted to blog a bit about NANO, but I know there are people that look at NANO as a silly endeavor. Then I was over at my good buddy Mike Winchell's blog reading about some of his writing habits and I thought why don't I talk about my writing pace. First, go read his blog...I'll wait.

I'm blown away that Mike can write 45k in 3 weeks! No, really I am. I wish that I had that drive, focus and fortitude to commit to that. I don't. I am the poster boy for adult ADD. No really, oooh look, I'll be right back.

Anyway, the most I've ever written in one month is 46k. This past summer I wrote about 41k this last August. The most I've ever written in one year is 200k. I don't think any of those numbers are bad, but I think of all the time I've wasted.

Now, I will confess that I am a complete Twitter whore. I love Twitter mostly because it's one of the few places I can socialize with other writers (and sports fans and pop culture junkies). In addition, I teach high school at an inner city school and I have taught three "preps" every year that I've taught, sometimes four, meaning I have to prepare for four completely different classes. It can be exhausting. This year has been worse because I am teaching all Freshman in 3 different courses, including a literacy program that I am still wrapping my brain around. It has taken so much energy to even be adequate in teaching the class. Combine that with the five years of football coaching I did and an active, precocious three and a half year old, it's a miracle I still can write at all. But I've still found time and energy to write. Not as much as like, but still write. I sacrifice things like sleep, but I figure I'll have time to sleep later. So, now that I've whined about why I don't write, let me talk about actual writing.

I'm a streaky writer. I go through long stretches where I write a lot. I also go through long stretches where I DON'T write. Not anything coherent anyway. Those times are getting to be less and less because that time has become so valuable to me with all that is going on. But when I write, I WRITE! I think my 90k summer was pretty good. I'm still convinced one of these summers I will meet my goal of writing 250k from June to the end of August.

Anyway, how do I write. Well, it all starts in an old fashioned composition notebook. No really, I'm not joking. Two summer ago, I participated in a writing institute for rising freshman through Syracuse University and we kept writer's notebooks. I adopted it into my writing. So here's the way I write.

I do a "writing plan" every few weeks based on what I've been doing and what I want to do, this is what my most recent writing plan looks like:

This gives me a general gauge of where I want to be as far as my writing goes, including suggested word counts and tentative titles. Things obviously change as time goes on.

When I focus on a particular project I do something called a "puke sheet." It's a technique that I am so enamored with that I modified my novel puke sheet into an essay puke sheet for my students. Essentially, a puke sheet is 1-2 pages of ideas, characters, random scenes, themes, symbols, world building, etc that I need to know for a book. Named so because it's like puking all those things on a sheet of paper to be cleaned up later. Here's the puke sheet for "Down the Line" project #5: "Epic Christmas." I wanted to actually use that book for NANO this year but Point Guard has taken precedent for now. That project can wait. Essentially, "Epic Christmas" is a Christmas story similar to the movie "The Santa Clause" but applying the tropes of epic fantasy to the story. (Lost heirs, fighting over a throne, etc.) (Ignore the purple daughter got to that page, it was in a different notebook and she decided to color!)

From the puke sheet, I outline the story. Outlines are usually the chapter, the POV of the chapter and anything from one sentence to a short paragraph. I hold the right to deviate from my outline any time that happens, as did with Sisters of Khoda this summer, where I plotted the novel out to be about 80k, yet it turned into a 94k novel! Anyway, here's the most recent outline I did for the sequel to Winter's Discord, Spring's Tempest.

Then, I write. Now, I'm not going to insert a picture of what that looks like, you know that already.

Now, editing and rewriting are another blog post altogether. So, now, I have a NANO project to work on. Do you have any writing routines you follow?

1 comment:

Mike Winchell said...

Well, to qualify your summary of my writing pace, I *can* write 45K in 3 weeks, and have many times over, but only when I feel it. When I'm caught up in it. And, by the way, that's when I know it's something special. Something worth finishing. I've had times when something dragged and that's a clear sign to me that it ain't working. So to the scrap heap it goes. But I feel when it's clicking you need to keep the momentum going. Sacrifices need to be made to keep it going. NANO, in theory, is a good idea in terms of challenging the writer to write at least 50K in a month, but the problem I have with it is it is set for one month. Since I feel you need to keep the momentum going when something's working, I believe the 50K in a month thing is good, but what is November is not the month you are taken over by the story? That's the problem I have with NANO. But, then again, that's just the way I do things and the way I feel about writing. We all have to find our own method and our own routine.