Wednesday, May 10, 2006
A Look Ahead....
Made some progress last night, but stopped short of the climax. I'm saving that for tonight. (*without batting an eye*)
I spent some time today expanding on my notes from a few weeks ago when I worked on the planning for another novel, OCCUPANT. I'm probably going to write that novel next. I visited the Wikipedia site when searching for a three-act structure link to include with the Helpful Links in the sidebar, and that site mentioned the "plot pinch", which is useful to keep in mind, a way to remind the reader (in the case of a novel as well as a screenplay) of the larger theme and looming final conflict. In my 12-step outline, it would correspond to steps 5 and 8, the middle Act IIA and the middle of Act IIB. Anyway, I added that to my existing outline tables along with the Turning Points and Mid-Point, etc., and like the results.
Over the past years, I easily juggled several different novels at once. My problem wasn't being too distracted -- I figured, if I reach a temporary block in one, or get a little burned out after putting in a lot of effort on one, then I can switch to another for a while so that I can keep writing. It's not confusing since each is a distinct story with its own characters, conflicts, etc. I have avoided doing this while working on THE REFLECTING STONE because I wanted to keep one main focus and get the darned thing done. Once I could finally prove that I could actually FINISH a novel, then I could go back to working on multiple things at once. Well, I think that time is fast approaching!
Where I juggled things informally before, this time around I'd like to use a schedule to help keep me on track. I find setting personal deadlines to be very, very useful. They prompt me along toward mini-goals over time and keep me from wasting time without realizing it. I enjoy the challenge of keeping up the pace in spite of whatever life throws at me along the way, although it can get frustrating at times when unexpected things derail a lovely couple of days I might otherwise have used for significant writing.
Anyway, I figure I'll keep future novels down to 60,000 words, up to 72,000 words, give or take. That's plenty long enough after struggling for so many months to reach 120,000 words as I have been for my current novel. I'll go back to longer novels later, but for now I feel I need the thrill of getting a few things done relatively more quickly. And, I have some stories ideally suited to that shorter but adequate length.
Using my 12-step outline based on the three-act structure (which is detailed in my other blog, Taking the 12-Step Challenge), and figuring about 5,000+ words for each step (=60,000 words), or about half the length of my current 10,000 words per step, I can write at twice the pace (2 steps a week compared with one step per week currently). So, it would take 6 weeks to write a complete draft which could range from 60,000 to 72,000 words.
If I pace myself evenly, and keep to 6-week increments of time, I can juggle three novels at once, where I am planning one novel for 6 weeks, at the same time writing one novel in that amount of time, and also editing a previous novel over that same amount of time. That way I am planning, writing and editing all at once, but for three separate novels. I'll crank out a novel in 4.5 months if this actually works, longer if it doesn't work quite so neatly in practice.
Here is a chart to show that overlap:
If I apply this to where I am today, I need about two more weeks to finish writing this draft of my current novel, and can then start editing it, and at the same time start immediately on writing a complete draft of my next novel. So, here is a chart showing a timeline for me through early August, phasing in another novel, and then another. Note that "TRS" refers to my current novel, THE REFLECTING STONE, and "OCC" refers to the tentatively chosen next novel, OCCUPANT, and the "???" refers to a third, as yet un-chosen novel, from my list of over a dozen waiting in the wings.
Note that the planning phase is detailed enough for me that it equates a rough first draft, so when I "write" on these charts that is in effect a second draft at that point. "Edit" includes "polish". And, of course, I can always leave more time. I wrote 52,000 words for Nanowrimo last November (a rough first draft of the current novel, in fact), and I only used about 10 days out of the month (there are 30 in November) to do the actual writing. So, when I know what I want to write, I can turn it out quickly -- I type 100 wpm+.
I would only think of attempting this, of course, specifically because I have a number of ideas to work with that I have given previous, substantial thought to over the course of a number of years. So, I am not starting these upcoming projects from scratch. My current novel was from scratch, an idea I had just before I started working on it, but that was intentional: I wanted to try out my new process for writing a novel using a story that I had not worked with before. A part of the difficulty with the others was that they were too near and dear to my heart. I needed some emotional distance to be more objective about this novel as I followed a new plan for working on it. It did help and the process, quite fortunately, has proven successful. I'll post another time about that, to lay out the rules I've followed and the way I've structured the task.
Yes, a novel in 4.5 months is an ambitious plan, but better to have a plan and give it my best shot than spend another decade thinking maybe one day I'll finally do that. It helps to look ahead, even as I finish the current novel, because it keeps me on my toes if nothing else, and helps me keep a perspective on the current work as part of a larger, ongoing body of work. And, being so oragnized is a great way to spin my wheels while I continue reflecting on exactly how I want the two opposing forces to do battle in that climactic scene that's just waiting for me to dive in and write it....