Strange Brouhaha

Friday, November 18, 2005

What have you learned?

Savannah asked me this morning what I had learned from working on my National Novel Writing Month project.

First of all, I'm at 30,100 words right now, which I think means I'm about a day and a half ahead. I feel absolutely no pressure to get done. I can't imagine not finishing. If the rest of the weekends go the same as the first two, I don't see how I can fail. This means that I'm in real danger of becoming complacent. Yes...that means that I'm so guaranteed to finish that I'm probably not going to finish. So I've learned that I need to have some discipline and write anyway.

Second, I've learned that it's absolutely vital to have some sort of plan. From now on, when I hear a writer claim not to need an outline, I will say "Bullshit," loudly and clearly. I don't care what form it takes, whether it's a canonical outline or a bunch of notes scribbled on cocktail napkins. I went into this with no plan at all, and what I'm writing doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Oh, it tells a story alright, but the characters aren't consistent and I think the plot has changed a half-dozen times. The project is all about word count, not art, but it should be possible to have both. What I'm doing right now is pretty much like running a D&D game, where you need to be ready to make things up from whole cloth at the drop of a hat, and if your precious storyline gets trashed, well, that's tough. (Disclaimer: it may well be possible to write some things without an outline, but a plot-driven genre novel is not one of those things.)

Third, I've learned that without a plot, characters, or a plan, I'm reduced to writing filler in between action sequences. *Those* I can write without a plan. It's getting to the fight that's the problem.

That's what I've learned. Well, that and the fact that I can make stuff up while "Law & Order" is on.


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