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Oct 21, 2012

Pancake Sunday Advice on Novel Writing

It's pancake Sunday and we've got the whole gang, kids and cousins, here to chow, so this will be a sweet stack with some bacon on the side! And what the heck does that mean?

Moving on to writing rules...  Rules?! We don't need no stinkin' rules! But I love 'em anyway. As we approach NaNo, it's time to start scouring the new and the bookshelf for the best advice out there. Here's some insights I thought were spot on (the numbering is off). Visit the blog to read the whole thing:
  1. I outline, but my outlines vary; I’ve written novels of 90K words where the outline was 30K in itself. I’ve written novels with 500 word outlines that have come in at 120K. The purpose of the outline is to map the journey in my opinion, but it is not the law.

Oh, outlines? Hello, YES. I mentioned a while ago I was experimenting with a "rich outline" that's almost more like a draft for Book 6. How has that been working out? Extremely well, as it happens. It's no panacea. I was a little worried that writing such a detailed outline, which was almost a draft, would just make me feel like I'd finished that part (see below for my problem with this) and like I didn't want to revisit the material.

I did suffer a bit of that, but you know what? I revisit material all the time, and I had to revisit it a lot more with my other method, to the point where I'd become so sick of it I couldn't work on the novel anymore. So far... this is better.

  1. A hard and fast rule for ‘scenes-per-chapter’ is outside my purview. Rather, I approach chapters with an eye towards “what must be accomplished here?” This applies to character as well as plot/story. Each chapter is a brick in the road, in this sense. Not knowing the purpose of a chapter, in my opinion, leads to a bad chapter that you end up deleting later.
  2. If you’re looking for some very literal advice, I would make a point of setting a word-count/day - something you can meet, but something that will test you. Then write that much each day. Not less, sometimes more.

    And don’t stop your day’s work at the end of a chapter, or the end of a scene, or even, if you can help it, at the end of a sentence. Leave yourself hanging. To mix metaphors, the element of the unresolved chord will bring you back into the work that much faster, especially if you’ve begun your work by rereading your previous day’s writing.
I'll be honest, this last one doesn't enthuse me, but I've heard it before, so it's probably one of those things that depend on your personality. I'm not sure it would be a good idea for me. My worst habit is to leave things a little undone at the end but treat it as though it were finished, so I suspect that if I left a chapter dangling... it would continue to dangle as I just raced past it the next day. In fact, I know that would happen, because, due to completely unreasonable demands of my family, like dinner. (Seriously, what's up with dinner having to happen every day? Wouldn't every other day be fine?)

  1. Final piece of advice? Scare yourself - not in the sense of writing something that gives you the creeps, but in the sense of pushing your boundaries; if you can write something that makes your own heart race or ache, the odds are you can give that same emotion to the reader. Don’t go easy - not on yourself, and never on your characters.
Ironically, stretching yourself as a writer can get harder once you're published. You suddenly feel like every time you change clothes, you're doing it in the middle of a crowd. So it's tempting to just wear the same thing rather than risk public nakedness. As soon as I figure out how to combat that, I'll let you know. Meanwhile, if you're not published yet, and you fear that no one will ever read the book you're writing, cherish that. Just think how freeing it is. No one need ever read the book you're writing! You can write whatever you want.

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