Welcome to November, the month when many of us take the plunge and dive…or wade…into a manuscript that we “swear” (on a stack of Webster’s and Roget’s) will be at least 50,000 words long. It may be a complete book. It may be the start of one or the close of one if a longer tale is in the making. And we all know that it’s just a DRAFT copy and thus can be absolute crap. Not the entire story but parts of it here and there.
The trick is to come up with those 50,000 words, which breaks down to 1,667 words per day for 30 full days.
This may sound like a lot of words but when I really lose myself in the story, that’s just a drop in the bucket. It’s like not being able to put down the book you are reading because you REALLY need to know what happens next. The trick is pounding out words when you are in a part where you haven’t lost yourself in the story’s world.
Although we’ve all started work on our NANO projects, I’d like to offer up a few suggestions on how to meet or beat the word count this month.
Know what needs to happen next.
Yeah, easy for me to say, right? This doesn’t mean you need to have plotted everything out. God forbid I ever do that. My characters have plans of their own usually and what they come up with is better than any preplan I arrive at. Having said that though, I do suggest that you have some idea of what comes next. If you’ve taken one of my workshops here at Savvy and I happened to have mention this ploy, you may have guessed what it is:
Dreaming up what happens in 500 words 3 times a day . . . so that when you sit down at the keyboard you’ve got ideas worth 1,500 words, which only leaves you another 167 to make the daily goal.
500 words is basically just shy of two pages, so you need at least one scene that runs 5 to 6 pages in length. If you write in the evening, then when you get up in the morning, think about what can happen in that first 500 pages part of a scene. Which character is in the POV driver seat maybe. You can do this while showering and brushing your teeth, during your commute if you still commute to a job. When you break for lunch, consider what needs to happen in the 2nd set of 500 words, then do the 3rd set while making or eating dinner (if you eat alone, that is). When it’s your time to go play with your characters, you have ideas worth at least 1500 words and maybe more.
You need description in a story and it’s a fairly easy way to gain a lot of words. Description isn’t just the physical appearance of characters or what they are wearing or driving, it’s a bit about what the room looks like, the tells or movements of characters. “Her nose wrinkled when the smell hit her, causing her to hastily turn away and pull the lapel of her coat up to cover her lower face.” “He ran a hand back through his hair in frustration, rubbed the nape of his neck, then huffed a resigned sigh before agreeing with her.” “The dog bounded forward enthusiastically, long feathered tail waving like an out of control metronome, and nearly knocked her over in greeting.” “The cat eyed him suspiciously, its golden eyes fixed on his face. Then it stretched and hopped off the back of the sofa to stroll down the hall and out of sight.” Give you a few ideas?
You can ABSOLUTELY NOT add words that are meaningless, though.
The story must push forward. So, think chronological order. What needs to happen first, what will follow it because it is a reaction of that action? Oddly enough, the word reaction has the word action in it, so there is always a reason to have a reaction to a reaction, too. These can be things that happen, it can be things said in rebuttal or in response to information given. It could be punching someone’s lights out, ordering dinner, deciding to turn a different direction, give into a request to do something (be it the right thing or the wrong thing at that point). There is also the rule that says every page must have one or more of these things on it: introduction of a character, information given, and/or an action (which can be a reaction). And a character making a decision based on information is an action, too. It doesn’t have to be a bar fight.
The NANO central folks say don’t reread or edit, just keep moving ahead.
That never works for me. I reread and tinker a bit with the last 5 to 10 pages I’ve written because that is what gets me back into the story, which is really important when it comes to moving ahead. Yes, I’ve heard people say stop in the middle of a line or the middle of a scene, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that I’ll know what comes next. The key is, do what works best to put yourself totally back in your fictional world interacting with your characters.
Think of your story as a map used when headed into territory with which you are unfamiliar.
Everyone piles into the car and while the plan is to visit the beach if you live far from the ocean, that’s reached on the last page. You’ll need to decide on a route to get there and there will be stops along the way to eat, sleep, and possibly visit other places, like historical places or the Ikea that is along your path when you don’t have one nearby where you live. As I live in the easternmost part of the American Midwest, if I planned a trip to Disneyworld, I could include a stop to see the Cumberland Trail or Dollywood, could skip both of those and head toward Washington D.C. and hit the Smithsonian and other sites. I could include a visit to Charleston since my history degree focused a lot on the colonial period, and then I’d finally hit Orlando and maybe have look ins not just at Disneyworld, but Universal Studios and Epcot. The visit to the beach might be slipped in there somewhere, or it might never make it into my plan, or get dropped because a hurricane decided to visit the beach area that was the original destination. Which, while giving your vacation “story” a direction, means that the conclusion might not be the one you originally had in mind. Stay flexible but keep in mind the goal in the story so you don’t go off track. You simply come at it a different way.
We’ve all heard the warning about having too much backstory in the front part of our manuscripts, or info dumps.
Particularly if you discover you need a bit more worldbuilding, either of these might be handy to spell out because it can aid and abet the creation of the rest of those 50,000 words, so go ahead and write them in when they want to surface. This is, after all, a draft. When the manuscript is completely written, you can cut down, cut out, rearrange to sprinkle in, these details to have a well edited and polished tale. Now is not the time to worry about it. Even though you know there is too much backstory or an info dump early on, no one else will ever know once you refine your product after Let it all leak in this month, particularly if you hit a spot where you’re struggling to move ahead. Could be the bits you’re trying to hold back just need to feel wanted. You can kill them later if necessary.
Yes, the creation of fiction is a dangerous business to be in if you’re either a character or text.
I hope these ideas help as you pound those keys this month. I’ll be following them myself since I signed up to do the deed (that being 50K words).
I leave you with this heart felt wish: MAY THE WORDS BE WITH YOU!
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WHEN YOU DEAL WITH THINGS THAT AREN’T HUMAN, THANKSGIVING WEEKEND ISN’T NECESSARILY SOMETHING TO BE THANKFUL ABOUT…OTHER THAN WHEN IT’S OVER!
It’s been nearly four quiet weeks since Bram Farrell, aka The Raven, was yanked from the printed page into the real world, but his first Thanksgiving on this side of the seam-stitched binding is something he figures he’ll only be thankful about when it’s over.
- There’s a dangerous item with creation roots in Heaven that has gone missing and those who want control of it are way above his weight bracket.
- There’s Samael, The Devil, who just knows there is something among the items in the demon yard sale Bram hosts on Thanksgiving Day – because Thursday is accounted the perfect day to unload things, particularly when no humans will be allowed through the gates – that calls to him.
- There’s an archangel who thinks the item needs to be back inside the Pearly Gates and sees no problem with simply taking it – if he can get his mits on it.
- Then there’s the dragon who simply likes shiny things, and has a collection he’d like to add the thing to. He’s buddies with the local vampire mafia, which is never a good thing where Bram is concerned.
If he’s guessing right on what the thing can do, Bram doesn’t want any of them to get hold of it. Which means he has to find it first.
And maybe destroy it.
Raven’s Reward falls between the first two Raven Tales novels, Raven’s Rest and Marked Raven and introduces a few new characters . . . ones that will turn up in the second book and, likely, those after it.