I originally posted this back in 2011, that’s before I was published, people.
I have since revisited and revised my original philosophy, but it’s still how I approach a project.
NaNoWriMo… Here I go!!!
It’s now November (well, almost nearly) and I am participating in National Novel Writing Month again. This will be my third (in 2011 – it’s now 2016, so insert sixth) year doing it. The goal, as always, is to reach 50,000 words. And it is not about having a perfect product, it’s about getting the story out of you.
If I give advice, which I don’t ever like to do, since what might work for me may not work the same for another, my advice is get the story out. People who want to write many times get stuck on the little details and rewrite… and rewrite… Truth is you could rewrite forever and never feel satisfied. Many published books are published simply because the author finished them.
UPDATE: This is still true – I don’t like to give advice. 🙂 The guidance (what a better word) I tell people, in the kindest way I can… Finish the EFFING story, PLEASE! Ending a story sometimes (most of the time) alters the original idea. Did you know that? It totally does. And a story doesn’t always end as you had thought it would when you started it. So, just write. Keep going. Don’t stop. Hardly look back! Just finish and kiss your manuscript when you’re done.
As I see it, there are three stages in writing – Bones, Muscle, and Skin. (Still true)
The Bones of a story comes out when you complete a manuscript, but is never perfect. Bones are only the framework of what can be accomplished. If you are worried and missing details, I wouldn’t. If they are in your head at one moment, they return, I promise.
UPDATE: A very simple way of saying “You have a lot of work ahead of you.” Many look at the bones as the outline. Don’t. I suggest always outlining, but leave room to run and create. As much as I love being a Pantser, I don’t like meandering in the forest. I do need to understand the full story and an outline does this. But, first time writers, know that a finished manuscript is ONLY bones, it’s not ready for the world. 50k words is a great accomplishment. Be Proud. But, your 50k from NaNo is ONLY bones. It is a very fulfilling feeling to finish a manuscript, and YES, you should be excited, but it still needs work. Send it to your best friend, your mom, your sister, but not to agents. No no no. Not yet.
Need Some Muscles
The Muscle is the second pass – gives your work strength and a strong bond to characters, situations, and gives you better clarity and understanding of, not only the reality of the story, but also background, or what’s to come.
UPDATE: What a long, strange sentence… Okay, this is what I MEANT to say. Your writing needs strength. You now have clarity of the story and know where it needs more. I say, get a little artsy – write the overly glorious details surrounding each situation. Color in the scenery with description. Explore the dialogue and add in the conversation. Don’t be afraid to be fanciful here. Strengthen what works and see what doesn’t. No one wants a flabby muscle, tighten it up. Fill in near the hinges, so your story will be able to move on its own. There will be a time when it will need to live without you, so this is your opportunity to help it grow stronger. Is that better?
Slap Me Some Skin
And finally, the Skin. The skin, of course, is the beautiful package. It is where the story begins to live on its own. The Characters could make decisions and stand on their own without you; the world turns, the plants grow – you believe it and then others will believe it too.
UPDATE: How beautiful. But it doesn’t tell you anything. Skin is the beautiful smooth, tight manuscript. This is your THIRD time looking at this, so it’s time to be critical. Sentence structure, word choice, commas, em-dashes… ellipsis. 🙂 Look at the blemishes and clean them up. Read it out loud – YES! Read it out loud! Your brain likes to fill in the details, it’s been trained to do so. By reading it out loud, the blemishes show up. It’s a fantastic way to understand if what you are attempting works. The Skin needs be to clean, scrubbed, and polished. Don’t be afraid to take a razor to it either. After the sting it will look really nice (and smell great). You need this creation to look its best. Because at this point, there is not much left to do with it. You could always go in there and fix and rewrite, but your best is there already. You know your creation very well. You’ve done your best with what you can at this point. This is when you can brave the world to take a peek and see if they like it: agents, beta readers, your grandma.
You are giving birth in a sense, to this child and soon it will walk away from you. So don’t stop writing, give your ideas a chance to live. NaNoWriMo is a great opportunity for that. Give that idea you have been kicking around some bones and see what happens.
UPDATE: I think the world can tell that I had a little one around at this time. Let’s not say giving birth (ick!), but the creation is there – like Frankenstein’s monster. Your book will eventually go on without you. You are the perpetual machine, but it will find it’s own audience. THEY will all have something in common, and THEY will Snapchat and Tweet and Facebook Group and Gif, and THEY will nearly forget about you, until THEY tag you on Twitter and ask “Where the hell is book 3?” (available Nov. 4th everyone!) Saying all this – there has to be an end at some point. You, as the mad scientist, will need to move on to something else. If it’s book two of the series or something completely different, it’s time for your brain to get active in creating again, something new and sparkly. It has different things to create then rewrite the same story.
What I’ve learned as an author – it’s not about one book, it’s about ALL the books. I’m creating a BRAND. And if people like one, they will look to see what else I’ve done. So, once the skin is on (and completely nude) set it out and see if someone can get it some clothes. (Or dress it yourself, if you like.) Don’t be afraid to share it. It’s time to let your creation live!
NaNoWriMo is a great place to start your skeleton. I’m starting something COMPLETELY new this year with a contemporary romance. If that doesn’t go over well, which it might fail in epic fashion, I’ve still got my winterscape dystopian that I’m very excited about too.
Wish me luck!
UPDATE: Wish me luck!
If any of you are thinking about doing NaNoWriMo, search for me – cani-jo and see how we do.