I didn’t complete my 50,000 words in the month of November, but that’s okay. I did make great headway on the novel, finally starting to develop an idea I had outlined a year ago, and I got plenty of other stuff done as well. Such as:
- Increase this blog’s traffic and audience over three times what it was last year;
- And oh yeah: most importantly, become a father again.
So it was a great month at the end of a great year.
And I did learn something about my writing process by participating once again in National Novel Writing Month, something author Yakov Merkin hit in his recent post about his own process (emphasis mine):
As I’ve already said, I most certainly have a desired, planned outcome with my stories, and I have a plan of how to get from the start to the finish. However, the process itself tends to be more organic, as detailed above. I go chapter by chapter, with a brief synopsis of what needs to happen, and then, once done, I look at where I am in the story, how far the various characters’ plots have progressed, and decide where to go next. It really is tough to describe, as there is a degree of “feeling” going on. Which character I go to next, what the connections should be, etc. Unlike a pantser, the plan, and the path is clearly there for me, but unlike most outliners, I don’t have a precise, technical blueprint per say. I realize that saying “I just know where the story needs to go” sounds pretentious, I know, but that’s the best way to put it. There have been times where I’m outlining or writing, and I suddenly realize that everything has fallen into place almost on its own. I take what works from both primary styles, and go with it. And so far, it really seems to work, while making both the outlining and writing processes enjoyable. It’s organized enough, while also allowing plenty of creative freedom.
Merkin calls this being a Shaper, and it’s like he reached into my thought process with this post.
I outline in writing, but very broadly. Now, the outlines in my head are far more detailed. Contrast this with my friend Adam Lane Smith’s highly technical and planned-out process. Smith likewise gives tons of good, solid, and practicable advice. Do what I do, and take bits and pieces from everyone and experiment to find out what works for you.
Me? I start big to small: Overall theme and concept >>> goal >>> conflict >>> characters >>> motivations >>> mysteries and resolutions >>> broad structure >>> chapter-by-chapter notes.
It works for me. For whatever reason, I can memorize several novels’ worth of outlines. I write them down in a Google Drive document to be safe.
So what do I mean by “mysteries and resolutions”? It’s a concept Brian Niemeier articulates where, for every two mysteries, unresolved conflicts, or unanswered questions, you reveal one.
This is where I have the most fun. I actually do like to keep track of these, making a little chart with corresponding letters representing the various mysteries. I find that focusing on this can keep my story on track without writing derailed, blow-by-blow chapter outlines.
Maybe that’ll work for you too.
In any event, November was a fun month, and 2018 will shape up to be a fun year once my book is out!
And while you’re here, why not sign up for my mailing list for more, including a free short story?
And more importantly, check out the aforementioned Yakov Merkin’s campaign for his excellent space opera series, Galaxy Ascendant. It’ll make you forget all about those lightsaber movies.