Thursday, December 2, 2010

National Novel Writing Month Debriefing

I was pretty behind coming down to the wire, but after one month of writing I have 50,000 words of a sort-of novel.

As to the state of the project itself, I feel like there's a good novel in there. Somewhere. There are basic plots, characters, and situations that hold up, and if they can be shuffled into the proper order, attached to a good solid outline, and buoyed and buttressed by extra scenes that do some of the exposition and world building duty, it could really be something decent. My monster creation currently has members of itself that are nothing more than naked bone, and some where rich, fatty flesh is hanging like tumorous overripe fruit off the thinnest little phalanx. I'm not entirely sure about the pacing either. But I'm a little surprised, honestly, how much I really do believe in it.

Ultimately the frustrating difference for me between short fiction and a novel is how much more needs to be in focus in a longer work, and how much each of those things needs to hold up to scrutiny. If you want to write a short story in which a waiter fights off zombies with his server tray before eventually managing to sling them into a conveyer oven, all you really have to get across is that your character is a waiter and there are zombies. What's important is the immediate situation, not why he became a waiter or where the zombies came from. The size demands that the peripheral details have a soft focus and don't distract from the matter at hand. But in a longer work all those things become important, because without them your focus points seem detached, lifeless, and unbelievable. It feels like the difference between being able to throw a killer fastball and being able to juggle. I don't think they're really the same skill.

My plan from this point is to finish out the rough draft of the main plot, then put it down and read a good novel, in the rough vein of what I'd like mine to be, paying some extra attention to structure and supporting detail. Then I need to come back, reread what I've written, and make a detailed outline and novel bible (I need, for example, to nail down some distances, solidify my ideas for the city police force, and remove and correct a number of placeholder names.) Once I have an outline plan to work from, I can fill in extra scenes and tweak the pacing and events until they're solid. Then I can give it a pass for the beauty of the language and then, it ought to be a book.

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