More than one person took issue with my previous video on Save the Cat and story structure. I wanted to revisit the subject in a little more detail and respond to some of the criticism, while making some other points about Hollywood, creativity, and art vs. commerce.
That right there is a finished first draft. I hit my five-month target, starting in November and wrapping up on the last day of March.
If you’re wondering what the process is now, the next step is six weeks in a drawer. That gives the manuscript time to season, and me enough distance so when I next pick it up I’ll have [somewhat] objective eyes.
This version is nowhere near ready for beta-readers. It’s the cleanest first draft I’ve ever written, but there are still some very rough sections I know have to be completely rewritten, and I’m not sure the plot or story make sense in this version. Hopefully the second or third draft might be ready for some reader feedback. I’m aiming for June or July for that.
So the question of the moment is: What to do for the next six weeks?
I mean, besides drinking.
At this point I’m aiming for more like 85,000, but it looks like I’ll hit my goal of finishing this first draft before the end of the month. Then a quick polish, six weeks in a drawer, and I begin the second draft. My aim is to have a polished final ready to start querying around September, which would mean turning around a novel in less than one year for the first time. My first one took about seven years, and the second took nearly three.
Oh, and I know it says “Working Title” up there, but I’m increasingly thinking that title may stick around. At least until someone tells me to change it.
I’ll admit to a certain level of intrigue. But I have too many other things going on in November. I’m finishing up marathon training (and running said marathon!), shopping a novel to literary agents, planning a move to New York City (including finding a new job), and in the meantime working my existing full-time job and trying to keep up with the enormous Rube Goldberg machine that is my day-to-day life.
I also have decidedly mixed feelings about NaNoWriMo in general. As much as I try not to over-romanticize the craft, I still cling to that idea of the author as a hermit, slaving away in isolation on that book he or she is compelled to complete. Something about the communal nature of NaNoWriMo runs contrary to that ideal. It’s a whole month dedicated to reminding me I am not a beautiful unique snowflake, but in fact one of tens of thousands of hairless apes who consider themselves storytellers.
I may be a little bitter that other people are able to churn out even a very sloppy first draft in 30 days [November isn’t even one of the LONG months, people!] and resentful that every agent blog I read bemoans the avalanche of manuscripts that hit their inboxes annually on December 1. There exists a National Novel Editing Month, but I don’t think it’s as well-publicized.
I do have a new novel I’m going to start work on shortly, but I’m not yet sure when. I’m laying down some of the skeletal work now, mostly mentally – drawing characters, figuring out plot points and themes – but I think before I really sink my teeth into it, I want to sink more time into trying to sell the last book, and maybe write some short fiction. I may even wait until I’m a NYC resident, but I’m not certain I can hold out that long. The muse may first call me to my hermitage.
Well, two chapters and some miscellaneous odds and ends.
That’s all that stands between me and a completed first draft of the novel I’ve been writing for three years. Why does it feel so far way?
This is one of those things non-writers often don’t understand. I finished “writing” the first draft months ago. Since then I’ve been “revising,” which also encompasses a good bit of rewriting. As I’ve said before on this blog, I’m a fan of the clay sculpture mode of writing, wherein the first draft is (metaphorically) throwing a bunch of raw material onto an armature, and ending up with something that resembles a super-ugly, messy version of the finished product.
On review of that initial messy lump, shortly after congratulating myself on a finished first draft, I realized what I had was unreadable. Some chapters appeared twice, in two different forms. Vital plot details were revealed in three places, or sometimes not at all. Whole sections had been skipped, and I never returned to fill in the blanks. I realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t even worth passing this mess along to test readers – their only comments would be things I already knew myself. Things like, “This doesn’t make any sense.”
So it was back to rewriting, which I initially aimed to complete by December 31, 2011. Then January 31. Then April 30. Now, I really believe I can realistically finish by May 31. But first, there’s those two damn chapters. Continue Reading