Previous check-in: November 16th
Happy (U.S.) Thanksgiving, NaNoWriMo friends! Hope the long weekend will bring that creative spark to help you finish strong as we head into the final week of NaNo, EEK! I, on the other hand... well, I'm keeping my 30-day writing streak alive, so there's that. Here are some of my musings and concerns from Week 3. (You can check out my progress on NaNoWriMo or even more random thoughts on Twitter.)
• Jennie's advice last week made me realize that I might not have enough conflict in my novel, WHOOPS. Part of it is because I want this to be a realistic, low-stakes contemporary romance (where the only thing at risk are FEELINGS, SOB). But I do need more subplots to round out the novel, so I've since given a few supporting characters more storylines.
• A few weeks back, I mentioned not knowing how my settings and dialogue/plot are going to fit together. My solution is to NOT CARE, write everything separately, then figure it out later, so everything's kind of a disjointed mess right now.
• Having read and reviewed as much YA as I have, I knew before I even started that this was not going to be easy. But MY GOODNESS, this is difficult. This exercise has definitely made me appreciate authors even more than I had before.
• Similarly, I'm already reading with a different perspective than I previously had. I'm paying more attention to how an author does... everything, basically.
• When I have the time (LOL), I'm hoping to reread some of my favourites in the same genre I'm trying to write (e.g., Lola and the Boy Next Door, To All the Boys I've Loved Before, I Believe in a Thing Called Love, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Let's Talk About Love) to see just, like, HOW. TEACH ME YOUR WAYS.
And now, for some words of Inkcouragement from FYA's literary agent extraordinaire and previous NaNoWriMo participant, Jennie!
I love that Mandy W. brought up the fact that it’s a lot harder to actually write a book (even a bad one) than to consume them. Anyone who looks down upon those who write romance, YA, MG, or picture books is laughably naïve (and condescending)—but that’s a topic for another day. Whether this is your first time giving it a try, or you’re old hat by now, the single most important thing that you need to remember is that it’s harder than it looks. It is always harder than it looks. Your job is to make your finished book look like you weren’t lying awake in bed, crying frustrated tears over your stupid words and why they won’t write themselves.
But that’s not your job right now.
Right now, you are Dr. Frankenstein building your monster from the skeleton up. NaNoWriMo is your skeletal framework: 50,000 words is average for a middle grade novel, and YA tends to run from 60- 90,000 words. You’re not going to get everything into a first draft, nor should you try.
Think of it this way:
First draft, the only thing you should be trying to accomplish right now: the skeleton. Get the framework set up. You’re going to start to see a story emerge, but it’s going to be missing a lot of things that make it readable. That’s okay, because without this step of the process, your monster’s skin and organs would just collapse upon themselves.
Second draft: the internal organs. You’ve got the plot set up, so now it’s time to add some brains and heart. Go back and figure out what’s missing: subplots? Emotional stakes? Character growth? Tasty business? An extraordinary wardrobe for a seventeen-year-old? Stuff ‘em in there!
Third draft: the skin. You’ve got your structure and your content, the things that are going to help your body (OF WORK, get it) function like a good book. Here’s where you go back and start polishing it so it looks more like a human. It’s cool if there are still bolts coming out of its neck and you didn’t do a good job stitching. Here’s where you should focus on your writing on a technical level, and fix any plot and pacing issues that may remain.
Fourth draft: hair, makeup, and wardrobe. Get your beta readers, your critique partners, and your sensitivity readers together, bribe them with cupcakes and coffee, and ask them to help you in a monster makeover montage. By now, you’re probably sick of looking at Book Monster, so you’re going to make your friends deal with it for awhile. When they’re done, collect all their feedback and see what resonates. (Maybe your monster doesn’t look good in green, but your readers really, really think they should wear green. Decide whether they have a point.)
(Side note: one of my clients collects her beta reader feedback in a spreadsheet with columns for plot, pacing, characterization, overall critique, etc. Not only is this a dream for me as a very editorial literary agent, but I know it helps her quite a bit as well.)
That sounds like a lot of work, because it is. Later, you’re going to deal with querying agents and their feedback, editors and their feedback (because you will receive additional feedback from them, even if they don’t want to acquire your book), and finally, your editorial feedback from your million-dollar- book-deal’s editor. Heck, even after that, you might find yourself reading reviews and seeing what your actual readers think. It’s exhausting, sure.
But you can do it. Don’t worry about steps two through infinity. Just finish step one.
How are y'all's NaNoWriMos going? Let me know in the comments!
Next check-in: November 30th