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Novel Week 2

This past week, I didn’t move through as many steps, but I started learning about how the publishing industry works, and continued developing characters:

  • Filled in more details for the 2 main characters.
  • Sketched 6 minor characters.
  • Read some book agent blogs, and some E-Zine articles in the advancedfictionwriting.com website archive.
  • Revised my 1-paragraph summary and my 1-page summary.
  • Started thinking about and listing a few subplots.

Writing about the characters is harder for me than writing about plot details. It’s a challenge to create characters that are realistic, but not cliches. This week, I’m going to focus on adding even more detail to the 2 main characters, and start working on the 4-page synopsis and an overview of the story timeline. I expect that writing a longer synopsis will show me gaps in my plotlines and where I need more character development or even additional characters.

Oh, I also set up a spreadsheet so I can track the time I spend on all these activities. AND, a couple of days ago I was throwing around an idea for another novel, and D helped me come up with a good one! But back to the task at hand – I’m going to give myself until the end of next summer to finish a manuscript I’m really happy with.

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Novel Week 1

So it’s been about 6 days since I decided to get serious about Writing a Novel. Here’s the rundown of what I accomplished:

  • Started sketching the 2 main characters, Kacey and Josh. For each, I listed full names, ages, birthdates (researched astrological signs to choose the birthdates), brief description of physical appearance and personal style, family members with names and sibling ages, about 20 descriptive adjectives, 4 defining values, a few characteristics, a short list of things s/he struggles with, vices, indulgences, secret wish, fears, regrets, things about self s/he doesn’t want to face, and things about self s/he doesn’t want others to know.
  • Read about the Snowflake Method and decided to use it as the framework for developing the novel.
  • Completed SFM step 1: Write a 1-sentence summary of the novel. I looked at the NYT bestseller list for examples, and I ended up with 3 versions of my 1-sentence summary.
  • Wrote the opening scene, just to see how it felt. I’m sure I won’t end up using it, but I had to try it.
  • Completed SFM step 2: From step 1, create a full paragraph describing major events and the ending. I used the 3 Act Structure to do this, and ended up with a summary paragraph about 200 words long.
  • Completed SFM step 3: Revise 1-sentence summary.
  • Completed SFM step 4: Expand each sentence in the summary paragraph into a full paragraph. Not sure I followed the 1:1 sentence–>paragraph expanded summary, but I ended up with a 850 word expanded summary.
  • Progress on SFM step 5: Write a 1-page description of each major character, and a 1/2-page description of each important minor character. I already had quite a bit for the 2 main characters, but I still need to do some narrative that tells the story from each of their perspectives – I haven’t gotten to the point where I’m enough in either of their heads to feel like I can do this. Wrote about 1/2 page on Eric, Josh’s brother. Need to do the same for Jesse, Kacey’s boyfriend. Also need to think about who some of the other minor characters will be. Josh’s manager, probably. Who else…?
  • A little reading about conflict, characters and conflict, and writing dialogue.

I have to admit, I’m rather thrilled with how the steps in the SFM have helped me progress from nothing to a few pages of summary and character descriptions. It takes effort, certainly, but it’s coming. And I feel like the details of the story are really takingĀ  on more shape and definition with each step – I realize now that without the SFM I’d be flailing around, trying to write a story whose details weren’t yet well enough articulated. The SFM is forcing me to really know what the story is, what the points of conflict are, and who the characters are. There’s still a mountain of details to work out, but the important thing is that I’m making progress.

I think one big challenge will be putting enough drama into the characters lives to make it a compelling story. In my own life, I’ll go to great lengths to avoid drama, conflict, and confrontation. But a novel without those things would be a boring pile of words, indeed.

I’ve bounced a few ideas around with D, and he’s helped me work out some issues. He’s made some good points about plot details, specifically when it comes to writing about the music industry. One thing we talked about was using really current cultural references, like Wii, Twitter, etc. I decided these things are a natural and important part of my story, so I’m not going to worry about the ramifications of including these types of details – if they end up being problematic, I assume an editor would clue me in.

A practical challenge is having long enough stretches of uninterrupted time to get into the zone and really get something accomplished. Looking back over the week, I suppose I did as much as a person with a full-time day job could do, but I think it was on my mind so much that all the time I wasn’t able to work on it, I was wishing I could.

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The idea of writing a novel has been sloshing around in my mind, well, probably since birth. But more recently – maybe in the past year – it seems to have bubbled to the forefront of my consciousness. I’d toyed with the idea of writing something that would be really off the wall for me – like a story with a main character who’s just murdered someone. But my ideas never took any shape, and I didn’t act on any of them.

Not long ago, I had a dream that planted a seed for a story. I came up with two main characters and started thinking about the plot. After a few days of making notes and sketches on my own, I did some poking around on the internet, looking for some sort of framework that would help me structure my work. Because I’m nothing if not structured! Seriously, I’m sure some writers balk at the thought of using any sort of formula or format for writing. But in almost any type of project, I work best when I’ve done the groundwork and created a well-structured plan. I like to have it sketched out so I know the general shape and scope of the thing. Once I’m confident I know what is expected, then it’s just a matter of filling in the details. (Ha, “just” the details – like coming up with 150,000 words!) Not that things can’t or won’t change along the way, but I need a well-articulated starting point.

So I found the Snowflake Method, and it seemed perfect for my style and needs. Although I’m just barely getting started, I’m finding that the steps are coming pretty easily – the biggest challenge is finding chunks of uninterruped time to work. I realize now that my original ideas for this novel were much too vague for me to actually start writing it yet. The Snowflake Method is forcing me to be clear and specific about what’s going to happen in this novel.

And even in spite of following a structured plan, this is surprisingly FUN. I’ve always enjoyed writing, sure, but for some reason I expected that writing a novel would feel like running a marathon in uphill in the pouring rain. I’m realizing that in order to write this story with any authenticity, I’m going to have to pull from many, many life experiences. And probably do a lot of research. But it doesn’t feel like work at all.

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