My Month as a Novelist – 2

December 2, 2010

This will be brief, but I really ought to try to post something every day – especially now that one of my friends has kindly subscribed to this blog (thanks Jayadev!) even though he’ll be seeing all my new posts on Facebook in any case…

I’ve always imagined that if I were to write a novel it would be science fiction, because that’s the genre I read the most, and because descriptions of everyday physical reality have never been my forte or my main interest. Of course even a totally made-up world requires a certain level of descriptive detail if it’s to be readable, and I am working on that, but my starting point was – as I always knew it would be, if I were to try such a thing at all – the projection of certain themes in human life and history into the future to see how they’ll play out.

I have had a number of maybe short-story length plot ideas in my head for a long time, and decided that some of them could be fit together into one larger narrative, so that gave me at least some kind of starting point. The first week or so I mostly sat and wrote out scenes that I had previously imagined, trying to figure out what exactly had to be put into words in order to make my vision at all comprehensible. Then I tried filling in some backstory and connective passages. I have no idea what more experienced writers do, I imagine at least some of them sometimes take a story idea and write it out chapter by chapter in chronological order, but that didn’t work for me, I ended up with several plot lines, each with its own point of view character, all developing more or less autonomously – in the last week I even worked on them as separate documents, only reintegrating them at the end of the month. I’m still not at all sure my timeline is coherent; that’s something to look at when I start serious revision.

Somewhere on the nanowrimo site I saw someone’s advice for the editing process: when you do your first draft, it said, don’t obsess over anything except word count. Just put it all out there, as much and as fast as possible. (That’s what we “Wrimos” were all doing in November.) The second time through, obsess over plot structure: make sure the sequence of events is consistent and plausible. The third time, obsess over every word, its meaning, its style, make sure it says exactly what you need in the way you need. At least that’s how I remember it. I’ll have to go back to the site and check the exact words and credit them at some point. But anyway, what I think it said sounds reasonable to me, and so my next step will be to work on the timeline.

I’ve discovered that I type about 16 words a minute if I have to think it out as I’m going along; if I’ve already worked out the exact wording in my head, I can do 30-40. I spent most of the month at 16.

There, this is longer than yesterday’s instalment, so I can legitimately quit for now…


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