In the past few weeks I’ve been outlining ways of planning for that elusive ‘first draft’ of your novel – which is what National November Writing Month is really all about.
Go check out those posts, if you haven’t already. If it’s done right, that draft should be a good basis for developing into a saleable novel without too much re-casting. The principles, just to recap, are:
- Plan first, write later.
- When making that plan, everything pivots around the ‘character arc’ of your lead character – this is what drives the narrative. Yes, you need subsidiary characters with their own arcs; but it’s best, certainly when on a learning curve, to focus on a single lead character. Keeps things simple.
- Planning doesn’t mean ignoring ‘seat of the pants’ free-flow writing; the two work together – the plan gives the structure and the ‘pantsing’ provides the creative spark to flesh it out.
- Don’t get too hung up on the specific wording in this first draft. The key is to get the structure, pace and flow right first – in short, broad strokes.
Working to that general plan should make it possible to knock out a 50,000 word draft in thirty days. It will almost certainly read badly – the usual issues with swift drafting are passive language, repetitive phrasing and vocabulary, and a general feel of ‘clunkiness’. But that’s not an issue – that is what word processors are for.
The more crucial part is having the right elements in all the right places; getting the character arc right and being able to tie the plot to it in a series of waves that maximise the tension at the pivotal point where the character arc resolves. As we’ve seen, that lead character arc acts as a very determined editor; using it as a tool, you can judge whether a scene or sub-character is extraneous or not.
What’s next? Cleaning up that wording and applying a suitable writing style. Of which more anon.
But before that, there’s the practicality of actually hammering out that draft. Which is a challenge in itself, not least because of the need to keep the pace going.
More soon. And meanwhile, get writing…what are you waiting for?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2014