No Plot? No Problem! Revised, Part Four

There are three earlier parts here; the preparation, Week One, and Week Two.

Week Three. Back into it!

This is where the word debt gets recovered, and the momentum comes back. Hopefully.

And, as always, there are good warnings about the nature of the challenge and the difficulties that can bring too. Because the idea is to write the book in a month, and you should be halfway through the story. Thankfully, there are some notes on how to get that happening. And those tools, once used, can actually really help with plotting out a novel before throwing words at a page, but that’s a different post all together.

One of the best things about this chapter is the introduction of the 3/30/10 exercise. You do 3 blocks of 30 mins with a 10 min break. It’s designed to get your word count up, and your characters behaving themselves. I love that exercise. And it really works. Which is why I pulled it out of the chapter specifically to write it out, because it is honestly good enough to be a tool that makes it all come together.

Week Three is a tricky beast, and Baty and his various NaNoWriMo Winners are quick to point out that this isn’t just you. It’s the week. It’s part of the process.

What I really like about this chapter is the sense that you are really not in it alone. Sure, it comes through in other sections well, but here it’s like they really are standing at the end of this tumultuous week, waiting to open the gates of Week Four and usher you into the magic of that sighting of ‘The End’ that comes with Week Four.

Despite having done NaNoWriMo a lot, I really like the exercises, advice, and pep talks in this chapter. It really does help to break down the weight of the word debt, and give a reassurance that this is just like ever other time Week Three has started with a suck dragon lurking in the woods.

The secret, as always with NaNoWriMo, is to balance productivity with some mental space exercises to keep your mind active and prevent overwhelm. It gives some nice ideas on how to do that, and a framework for you to work with if those ideas don’t suit you.

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Time to put your procrastination hobby aside and get back to the words!

No Plot? No Problem! Revised, Part Three

Looking for Part One? Click here!
Or the lead into Week One? Try here.

Here we are, Week Two!

The fervour of Week One has had some great effects, but as Baty points out, Week Two is a bit of a different ball game. Or, as Baty says, there’s a storm coming.

Thankfully, there are the warnings so it’s clear this happens to everyone and that Week Three is worth the slog. Which, if you’ve done this crazy novel month thing before you already know but the reminder is nice. And timely.

The advice in this section is, as usual, pretty on the mark for what NaNoWriMo is about. Write the word count, you or your characters will find something to fill it with, and this is the roughest of rough drafts. Just keep writing.

Of course, that comes with caveats, tips, and some motivational insight so that the idea of getting it written rather than right comes through. Including how to get your support network coming in to help get you out of some plot trouble! Some of which I haven’t used before, and I may just test out this time around.

 

There are a heap of little tips and tricks that are from NaNoWriMo Winners, and again, there are some new ones for me so I am really glad I read it. Especially since Week Two really can be a hard slog.

Sleeping Helper

Week One can be exhausting!

No Plot? No Problem! Revised, Part One

One of the most important books in my writing life was No Plot? No Problem! and I credit that book and the online NaNoWriMo community with giving me the small step goals that got me here. If I can write 50,000 words in a month, can I write a full story? If I can do that, can I write a longer full story? What happens if I plan out the book beforehand? Incredibly important questions. And incredibly important skills.

Which means this review series will be a little biased because I love the idea, the process, and the community. But, a bias declared is a bias acknowledged, so keep it in mind.

This book is designed to get you through a month long writing project, a guidebook for the NaNoWriMo process. You can start whenever you want, and you can do it all without getting online. Unless, like me, you have the digital copy. Not the point.

As usual, the first section not only gives some background on the crazy endeavour that is writing a book in a month. It also busts some pretty necessary myths that really can hamstring your attempts. Don’t worry about it being perfect, make time to write but actually write, write if you don’t know what’s happening, write if you do. Basically, write first and worry about editing later. Which is largely how you get through NaNo, in a blaze of writing glory much like a firework set off at an odd angle…

Thankfully, the first section contains tips, tricks for getting yourself set up. This includes people wrangling, contingency planning, novelling headquarters options, tools lists, and suggestions on some ways you can make more time available to you for your epic writing month. All very handy things, and some of them do creep into your habits if, like me, you end up doing a lot more than one month novel push a year.

It also gives you information on how to work out what level of pre-production you need. As the title suggests, you can have as little as you want. The important thing is not to overdo the pre-production.

One of the best pieces of advice here are the two Magna Cartas. The list of things you like, and the list of things you hate. This means when things from the second list creep in, you can kick them out much earlier because you know what they look like.

There are also some good questions to ask yourself about character, and good guidance on starting out your plot.

And because I am going to use this Camp NaNoWriMo to read the book as it was intended, I’m stopping here. No writing on the story itself until Day One. No reading ahead.

So far, the book has lived up to its purpose. It makes the idea of writing a novel in a month fun and not scary, it gives good guidance on how to set yourself up for success without sacrificing things unnecessarily, and has good titbits from Wrimos in there too. So far, it’s made me more confident rather than less.

It currently has a place on my writing craft shelf.

One of the things recommended for the month is to find a writing totem. Here’s mine for month!

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Where did that come from? 

Yet again, the month leading up to a Camp NaNowrimo session disappeared into the mist and left me wondering what I had planned. At least it’s a familiar feeling.

This Camp, I am going to actually try and do something from the Deborah Chester book. It’s called Planning. And I am terrified. By which I mean I have drawn on all the help I can to make myself try out the Big Scary that is Planning.

The story is a modern fantasy, set in Melbourne, with a young woman by the name of Emilie as the main character. She seems normal enough, except since she’s the main character clearly she’s not. A sudden ‘promotion’ at work throws her out of her depth and into a world she didn’t realised existed. Which only gets more complicated when a puppy suddenly appears.

Or, as the Deborah Chester method would have me write it according to SPOOC: When she is specifically requested to manage interersonal conflicts for two big charities working towards a combined event (Situation), Emilie (Protagonist) is determined to prove herself capable (Objective) despite the added distraction of a stray puppy claiming her as it’s own. But can she acquite herself with skill and composure when she’s been set up (Opponent), and the people she’s working for are far more dangerous than they appear (Climax).

Okay, I did modify the last bit, because spoilers. But look, it’s got a structure!

I have also done a ‘plot’ breakdown, which I tried to get as a scene/sequel break down. Honestly, I had a lot of trouble with it because I’ve done a bit of script/screen writing and the word ‘scene’ doesn’t mean the same thing in that context. Thankfully, a friend of mine helped me work out what would happen sequentially, and made note of the plot points. That’s what the scenes are, key plot points. They’re the hooks you hang the story on. The sequels are the bits right after that when your characters process what just happened. That made it a whole lot easier.

So, the goal is to follow the outline. If I get 50,000 words then even better, and should I happen to crank out the full draft, hopefully around that magic 95,000 words Chester recommends, that is brilliant. Fingers crossed.

Bring on Camp! I am prepared for procrasti-baking!

My lovely friend made me a recipe book of some brilliant things in there. I am pretty excited to try them out. Once I have words for the day. Words first. Mostly…

And necessary bunny post. Duchess being a shoulder bunny. She’s such a funny floof.

Off Like A Shot!

I managed to get one chapter done, on day one, despite having work and appointments, and needing to sew the snowpeas and stop the lime tree trying to crush the dwarf lemon.

One of the things I realised I hadn’t really thought about was what style I wanted to write in. Which, as fundamental as it sounds, really doesn’t surprise me. There was going to be something important I had forgotten. At least it wasn’t what the name of my characters were, or how to start, or something as important as what the antagonist wants. Those are my usual things to forget, so style is a nice change.

Because I am a terrible mimic, and by that I mean I tend to mimic without meaning to, there was a very real danger that I would end up mixing the modern science fiction style and the more classical style of Pride and Prejudice. Without realising it, most of the small scenes that had been playing out in my head before Camp NaNoWriMo were combining the two different styles until I sat down and the style came out. I am intrigued to see how it plays out over the longer chapters, especially when there are those lovely skimming sections that cover months of things happening. Jane Austen really is a master of that, and I’m listening to Mansfield Park, and the transition of time is handled even more cleverly there than in Pride and Prejudice.

The other thing I am going to ponder in the background while I do other things is what sort of heroine this Lizzy will be. She has to be clever, and witty, and capable. But I have to balance that out with needing Darcy to be able to resolve the disaster before it can truly taint the Bennet family. It’s not about him being the hero, it’s about him doing what he can to prevent her pain, believing he would never see her again. It’s not doing what’s right, or what you’re driven to do for love, it’s something else. I’m still working on what it actually is, why I like that particular ‘rescue’ but others make me a hissy-cat. That’s a Black Jewel reference, because so much of Anne Bishop’s phrasing creeps into my every day use…

But, I have chapters to write, horses to ride, and a garden to stop from crushing itself. At least this is useful procrastination.

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Kale, chives, snowpeas seeds, the big lime, and the little lemon in the blue pot. The start of a garden!

The Night Before

And I am sure I’ve forgotten to pack pretty much everything I need for Camp NaNoWrimo… Like setting, and pertinent world details, and character sheets, and some idea how to get very specific social morality converted into sci-fi appropriate social dilemmas.

But, I shall not be afraid. I will venture into the stellar wilderness aboard one of the generational colony space ships in The Legacy Fleet, and I shall find out what Pride and Prejudice looks like in the far flung future. I’m hoping it turns out much the same as the original, because otherwise I will have done something very, very unexpected and contrary.

I still haven’t managed to work through the Science Fiction Writers of America World Building questions, because I somehow managed to procrastinate around it, so I will be making a lot of it up as I go. Not unusual, but certainly not optimal for me.

Still, onward to Seeking Space, and the quirky nature of people that doesn’t seem to change that much despite increases in technology. After all, it wouldn’t be the same if the characters didn’t laugh at their neighbours and be laughed at in their turn.

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The Backyard! It will be ours!

A Conflict of Theories

I am having a dilemma. And I think it’s one that not only writers who are pantsers or character driven can understand. It involves plot, and the most appropriate way of getting your story idea out into the world so it’s exciting and interesting.

For Seeking Space, my Camp NaNoWriMo project, I am doing a retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Ambitious? Not really, because I am under no illusions that it will be any good. It certainly isn’t going to magically come out as a perfectly publishable piece that will get me a farm and a pony and all the other nice things that come of winning the writerly luck lottery.

The problem is as follows. In Pride and Prejudice, the story is conveyed in a very different style to modern literature. No surprise, this is a part of the foundation of literature. It’s called a classic for a reason. Which is why the completely sensible and utterly marketable advice in The Fantasy Fiction Formula by Deborah Chester has me rattled.

How am I supposed to do a sci-fi retelling of a story that, when you get right down to it, has a main character we like because of her inner conflict and change rather than her impacts on the world at large? All the small things that escalate do so in part because someone doesn’t act, and then when things are at their worst, it’s not Lizzy who goes to the rescue. It’s Darcy. And yes, I like it because it’s an ‘actions are louder than words’ sort of moment, but it does mean that the main character isn’t the one who solves the issue. Which would not fly in a modern sci-fi. And rightly so. I love Anne McCaffrey‘s works precisely because things get done by the main character, and the small decisions have larger consequences.

Which leads to the point. How do you preserve the essence of a story, without becoming trapped in the nuance of the original? I’ve seen Mercedes Lackey do it time and time again in her Five Hundred Kingdoms series, but they’re all still medieval or fantasy, so similar rules to work within. My original is right out there…

So into the final few days of March I go, the original plot mapped out but my world building still a shambles, and no idea what the whole things is going to look like in my novel. Sounds about like a normal Camp NaNoWriMo, I guess. Lucky I have some practise.

And these cute monsters.