Sunday, December 7, 2008

One to grow on – NaNoWriMo

Well November’s come to an end and I’ve got a mostly finished first draft of a novel. Looks like the final word count is going to be somewhere between 65,000 and 70,000 words. I’ve just started the climax of the novel and I’ve got it pretty planned out, so it should be relatively easy to wrap up.

So what did my NaNoWriMo experience teach me? First off that it is possible to write 50,000 words in a month. Sure this November had an extra weekend, and that certainly came in handy. However, I now have a good idea about how long a first draft should take the next time I tackle one of this size.

I also was able to just focus on actual writing and not be too concerned about what I was writing (hope that makes sense). I’m sure that some of what came out (especially in my lengthy dialogue scenes) will need to be clipped. I mentioned the exposition issue in the middle of the book in my previous blog. There was also an awkward transition between the final portion of the story and the climax of the story. It felt boring to write and I’m sure that at this point it’s pretty boring to read.

I also noticed that the story has some pretty typical plot points in it, especially in the middle and end portions. When I go back to the draft, I’m going to have to see if I can shake up the narrative a bit. It doesn’t do any good to keep the story suspense free after a solid first portion.

I also learned that the plan I put in place last year, of writing 2,500 words each writing day really prepared me for the task of participating in NaNoWriMo this year. 3,000 words each writing night didn’t seem so impossible after the 2,500 words. In addition the whole plan helped me keep on track. I fell behind a few times, especially when some holiday craziness intervened. Luckily I was able to catch up on the weekends.

With all that said, I had a real good time working on NaNoWriMo. I’m looking forward to the challenge next year and I encourage anyone who is interested in novel writing to give it a try. If anything, I finally got another part of the larger dark fantasy story I’ve been working on for years out onto paper (or into my hard drive). And that’s a very good feeling.

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo this year (or previously)? What was your experience like? Do you have any questions about my experience that I didn’t bring up in my blog? Are you happy to see this over so I can get back to ranting and raving about movies, books and music?

Monday, December 1, 2008

A nice healthy info dump – NaNoWriMo

One of the main issues I've run into while working on my NaNoWriMo story was the problem of exposition. There are some minor issues. Characters all have pasts, and sometimes these pasts come up in conversation. So the reader, who doesn't know anything about these pasts, may find the conversation to be a little confusing. I usually keep these conversations short and to the point. In my second draft, I'll review these and see if they are necessary or just color that happened to appear in my first draft. Most can be culled without any affect to the reader.

The bigger problem comes from basic story construction. My main character, Martin, is given the ability to see layers beneath our world. This happens suddenly and creates much of the fear and uncertainty in the first portion of the story. Martin then tries to find out more about why this happened, and soon finds that he's a target for the cultists I mentioned in an earlier blog. The mystery of the cults’ goals, and their dedication to these goals compels Martin in several scenes and drives the tension up. The lack of information for Martin and reader keeps things interesting and drives the story at the same time.

Then comes the moment when the motives of the cult must be revealed. The story screeches to a halt while characters talk and talk and talk some more. Now, I don't mind writing dialogue, so I'm having fun with this section, but the story itself seems to be bogging a bit. For a first draft, I'm not too worried, I just want to get the story down and I'll work with it later.

It's the second draft I'm thinking about. How can I reduce the amount of talking in the middle? The first option is to keep some for the revelations secret even longer. Perhaps my font of knowledge doesn't have all the answers, and Martin and his comrades discover more as the story goes. This sounds like a good option, and I think that's where I'm leaning.

The other option is to have Martin learn a bit more about the cultists earlier in the story. Problem I have with that, is that much of the good and scary stuff comes from the unknown. Why are these freaks attacking Martin and why are they so determined? To undermine that mystery would hurt that first portion of the book.

The last option would be to continue the mystery without the "Fount of Knowledge" scene. I'm not too keen on that option either, only because Martin will still be clueless and it would be up to dumb luck that he even starts down the right path to completing the puzzle. Dumb luck is a little too close to happy chance and coincidence for my tastes. I think Martin must engage in the Fount of Knowledge scene for the story to head toward its climax.

Where does that leave me? Well right now, it leaves me with just finishing draft one and letting the whole story rest. But when I come back to it, I think I'll need to look at places where I can place hints for Martin before the Fount of Knowledge scene. This will make some of the conversation go a bit quicker, because Martin will not have to be brought up to speed. Second, I think that my Fount will not have all the answers. This will lead to some good surprises down the stretch. Heck just writing this, I've come up with a good twist that I telegraphed in my Font scene, and that would be much better without any warning... Hmmm.

Do you have any suggestions on handling the dreaded Info Dump scenes? Is this something that shouldn't be a concern in a first draft, or is it good to think about now? Have you read any books that handle this kind of problem well?