This is complex, sticky stuff. We’ve covered an entire year of grad school creative writing… nobody expects you to absorb it all.
All of us find our path, are preferred process. And it’s all over the map. You now have some new tools and options to find yours.
If only a percentage of this sticks, it’ll be worth both our efforts.
Even a small percentage. If you do only one thing better, you’ve moved toward your goal. There’s more, but take what’s clear to you and keep wrestling with what isn’t. It’ll come.
If you are suddenly more aware, even if not totally confident with these principles — aware of what’s necessary, what’s possible and what’s missing in your story or what’s may be compromising your process — that, too, is a win for both of us.
You started with an intention: write a NaNoWriMo novel.
I’ve suggested you jack up that intention by moving toward a process that will result in a novel that is actually structurally and dramatically viable, rather than a rock pile of 50,000 words that are grouped, perhaps, into coherent sentences, but took a left turn somewhere around page 40 and ended up being… a bit of a mess.
That’s a better goal. A higher goal. Do that, and you’ll really have won NaNoWriMo.
Will you publish it? Who knows. You can do all this perfectly right and the story may not resonate with agents, editors or readers. The magic ingredient is a mash-up of compelling ideas and fluid voice, timing, and a lot of luck.
If it works… celebrate. If it doesn’t, I’ll wager you’ll now know why.
Either way, then go on to the next, applying what you’ve learned. That’s the long view for all of us who do this.
A few things I won’t back off of:
You need a vision for the story. Starting with a mind that is as blank as the first page is… not good. Not doable. Not smart. Even as you fill in those blank pages from your still-blank but hopeful, experimenting mind, you’ll eventually have to end up working from a vision for a story, and the overwhelming odds are you’ll need to start over when you get there, if you expect a readership.
You’ll need a conceptual stage for a dramatic confrontation between something the hero wants or needs and something that stands in the hero’s way… and you need an ending to shoot for.
If I could wish one thing for you in November, it’s that start your manuscript with these things (what we examined in this series) solidly in mind as you write your story.
Even just that will allow you to harness your instinct — as well as whatever stuck to the wall here — toward the writing of a real story, with a real future.
Less than that… it’s gonna be a long month.
So please don’t over-think this.
If what you’ve encountered here makes sense, then by all means bolt it to your end-game and adapt your process accordingly. If you’re struggling — and it’s reasonable that you may be — just know that merely having encountered these principles will have a subtle effect on your storytelling sensibilities.
It’s like riding your first bicycle… you’ve watched the other kids do it… but did Dad’s verbal instruction really make it happen? Or was it some combination of the principles and your learning curve, resulting in a new instinct and sensibility?
That’s all it ever is… storytelling sensibility. And we should use all the paradigms and principles and processes (three key Ps) we can get to ratchet them up.
We’re not done. I’m still going to offer up some final beat sheet tips and talk about how to turn the corner from planning to actual drafting. These things, too, are complex and challenging, and often defy instinct.
Until then… let it all swim in your head.
If it wakes you up at night… welcome to writing novels. It should. This is hard.
And, this is worth it. Especially if you go about it in an enlightened way. If you’ve read this far, I’m betting that you will.