Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Second Month: Staying on Track

Wow. Has it been a full week already? Guess it's time for another post, I'll be it extra long to make up for my lack of posting. Let's start off today's post with an analogy (in honor of my track meet Thursday).

Long distance running is a lot like track.

Say you are completely sadistic and insane and weird like me and love to run long distance. While I love long distance it's not very easy to deal with sometimes. While the typical long distance event is from 4-8 laps on a standard track, sometimes it's hard to run that distance, so you cheat on your training. Run a few sprints then call it a day. And while you're making some progress in track, it's not the kind you want to be making.

Writing is the same way. The typical YA novel is 40,000-80,000 words.** And sometimes it's hard to write; so for whatever the reason, we, as writers, cheat on that too. Maybe we post our opening pages in hope of critiques, or we just quit altogether... Whatever the reason you decide 1,000 words into your novel that you should stop and re-write. Again. And again. And again. While you're learning how to write the first 1,000 words well, you aren't learning how to write a novel well.

I would know that.

I spent three, count 'em, three hours re-organizing my novel. Why? Because I had exactly forty-nine openings for the exact same novel. I have no clue how it got that way, but it did. I wouldn't have even noticed it if I wasn't reorganizing all the files on my laptop!

I realized that my story was so scattered that if unless I started over it wouldn't make any sense. At the same time, I realized that that if I started over, I'd probably quit for some reason or another and that file would be shoved along with the others. With an extremely vague name like "Intro-4". So I needed to change.

I wrote down a non-vague title that would remind me of each fragment of my story on a notecard with the title, file name, date, and number of pages.

After that I sorted them into piles. "USE!", "Useful", "Salvageable", "Useful for other stories", and "Useless".

Then I used the usefully ones to help write an outline for the start of my novel. 

The process took a while but at least this way I'll finish. If you find yourself in the same situation and don't want to waste paper I would recommend using the notecard function on Noodle Tools. (It's pretty cool for school projects too).

But that's not what today's post is on. Today's post is about how to prevent yourself from getting to this point. It's fairly easy, if you follow a few simple but vital rules.

1) Have a plan.
Or some idea of where you want to go with your story. This will also save a whole lot of rewriting later.

2) Just keep writing.

Don't stop for critiques or to edit what you've already written. This is the fastest way to convince yourself that the book sucks and you need to re-write it.

3) Write for yourself.

Don't let anyone else read what you've written. Don't obsess over what you think others will think, either. As my drama teacher would say, "get rid of your cool brain". Don't be afraid of acting like a dork or writing something badly, because SURPRISE most of your first draft will be dorky and bad.

That's it!


** I have no factual proof of this, but the minimum a story must be to be considered a novel is 40,000 words and publishers like their books to be between 75,000-85,000 words

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