The Plot and the Rough Draft

I’ve had most of a rough draft of the MG Sci-Fi finished for a while. My big goal right now is to move from almost complete rough draft, to a complete first draft. As posted before my plan to get to a first draft is:

  1. Work out the seven point plot for this novel.
  2. Write up a detailed plot.
  3. Move the scenes I have to fit the final detailed plot.
  4. Finish writing the rough draft.
  5. Read through and edit to get a complete first draft.

Step 1 – Seven Point Plot
Once I figured out the starting state, the seven point plot came together quickly. I spent almost as much time watching videos and researching the seven point plot as I did figuring out the seven points for this novel.

Step 2 – Make a detailed plot
Writing up the detailed plot took longer than I expected, but I’m glad I took my time. To get this step done, I first broke up all the ‘chapters’ in my scrivener file into scenes. Then I lumped the scenes into folders for each stage of the adventure. This step took some time, but was a big help when it came to doing step 3, so no regrets.

Once I had the scenes broken out, I reread the novel. This didn’t take long, as it is only 30k at the moment. With a much fresher view of the story I made up the detailed plot. I took my time, and was able to move and imagine how to rework scenes to get a much better plot than I have right now. I think I only tossed three scenes into the garbage, although several more will need a complete rewrite.

Step 3 – Set up my Scrivener file
Because of the prep work I did in step 2, this step was fast and easy.  I finished moving my file in a single night. At the same time I also copied my final plot into my story notebook. I know the plot will still shift a bit during edits, but I feel much better having a solid place to start.

Step 4 – Write a rough draft of the missing scenes
This is where I am right now. I’ve taken this week off of writing, so next week when I dive back in, I hope to make good progress. I have four scenes left to write to have a finished rough draft.

What are you working on right now? Do you make a plan when writing a novel, or do you fly by the seat of your pants?

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Moving on from NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is over, and it was a success. I enjoyed the novel I was working on, but in December I’m going back to my MG Sci Fi project. I want to use this project as a learning experience for a deep, full, edit. I’ve finished many manuscripts (~8). But I’ve never managed to completely edit a piece to my satisfaction. Getting something polished is definitely the next challenge I need to face as a writer.

Hence my new writing goal of ‘Finishing a Novel’. Not just a finished draft, but an edited polished novel. I’m excited and nervous, the usual emotions I feel when starting a new writing challenge. I’ve laid out the steps to get a complete first draft. I’m looking for something a little cleaner than a rough draft (I write fast, so I write what I call a rough draft *ahem* sometimes very rough). If my novel were a house, I’m looking for a house with good bones, not the renovated house of my dreams. Once the first draft is done I’ll move onto deeper edits to get to a second draft, then hopefully get a final draft after a good polish.

My plan to get to a first draft:

  1. Work out the seven point plot for this novel. This concept was pointed out to me by my friend @catereads. It’s a great way to get a plot outline.
  2. Write up a final detailed plot.
  3. Move the scenes I have to fit the final detailed plot.
  4. Finish writing the rough draft.
  5. Do one read through, and edit to the point where it makes sense (and I’m not missing any scenes). Considering how many scenes I know I’m moving, this might take a while.

So far I’ve finished number one, and I’m working my way through number two. I’m feeling excited about the task though.

What are you working on these days? How many finished, but unedited, manuscripts do you have?

The Winning Update – Day 17 & 18

This year is our third annual NaNoWriMo writing retreat. I wrote about our first retreat in 2015. Our location changed this year, and I’ll write more about it later, but all of my words on the 17th and 18th were written at the retreat.

Day 17:
I’d planned to write 2,500 as usual on Friday leading up the retreat. Of course I always forget how much time it takes to pack for a weekend away. It seems like it should take much less time than say packing for a week, but in my experience it takes almost as long. Longer in this case since I also had to worry about food. Plus I really wanted to get a workout in before we left. By the time I was ready to go, I hadn’t written a word. I didn’t start writing until 9p. I figured, “Ok, I’ll just aim for 1,667 or 2,000. I can catch up Saturday easily.” Well I hit 2,000 and then zoomed on to 2,500. Retreat day one was a win.

Day 18:
My goal, since we booked the retreat was to win NaNo while at the retreat. I thought I would win on the Sunday. If I wrote 2,500 words each day leading up, and each day at the retreat that is when I would win. Well Friday night I revised that goal, I wanted to win on Saturday. On the main retreat day a 5,000 word day isn’t outrageous.

I did it! I won in the afternoon. So yesterday evening I wrote another 2,000 words for a total of over 7,000. Yesterday is now my wordiest recorded day on NaNo. (I think I’ve had wordier NaNo days, but they were before records were kept).

NaNo Daily Challenge Update:
On Friday night I started writing so late, I didn’t really pay attention to my challenge. I wish I had, it was use more than sight for description, but honestly I just needed to get my words in. Yesterday was “Yes, but” and “No, and” again, and I did try and focus on it. I like how it helps propel the story forward, and sometimes it even helps me know where to go next. Definitely something I will be using even once I’m done NaNoWriMo this year.

Are you ahead or behind for NaNo? Have you ever been on a writers retreat?

NaNoWriMo Updates – Day 14, 15 & 16

The last three days have been a bit of slump compared to most of the month. It wasn’t even that I had trouble with the writing, I just had trouble finding the time to write. This isn’t a big surprise. There are ALWAYS days in November when finding the time to write is hard. Where the only way to get your words is to stay up late, or try and write when you would usually spend some time with your family. I like that NaNo helps me make writing a daily part of my life, but it can be hard because the goal is so high.

Day 14:
Wasn’t too busy. Writing was a bit slow, but I made my goal of 2,500 words without too much trouble. I wasn’t up really late, just a little late. I wasn’t thinking of quitting before hitting my word count. I got it done.

My NaNo Daily Challenge was to let my character make mistakes. I appreciated the reminder, but it was a difficult day to fit it in. It is something I’ll keep in mind as I write though.

Day 15:
Wednesdays are hard this year. I have gymnastics from 8:30-9:30 and I struggle to find writing time before I go. I think I got maybe 500 words before I headed out. I didn’t make my 2,500 goal (I hit 2,200). I really debated just stopping at 1,667 (a normal NaNo day), but I have worked hard to be able to finish on the 19th while at the writing retreat. I’m not ready to give up on that goal yet. I thought I would be able to make up the extra words on the 16th. The 2,200 words did let me hit my goal of 40k on the 15th.

My NaNo Daily Challenge was to focus on voice. This was a repeat from earlier in the month. I felt the same way as the first time. I like the reminder that I need to work on this, but I’m still unsure how to get the improvement I’m looking for. Something to think about after NaNo is over.

Day 16:
I didn’t write the extra words I was looking for. I did make my 2,500 words though. At 1,000 words I really thought I wasn’t going to make it. I wanted to stop writing and go to bed. This happens around this time every year. It is part of what makes NaNoWriMo a challenge. I pushed through and by the time I hit 1,600 I was moving much more quickly. The story had a place to go again, and I was sailing along. If it wasn’t so late when I hit the 2.5k mark, I would have kept going for those extra words I missed on the 15th. But it was late and I need sleep more than extra words.

My NaNo Daily Challenge was that someone was supposed to betray my main character. She has already had one character betray her, and I’m laying the ground work for a second, but it hasn’t happened yet.

The Next Week:
The good news is that I’m at the point I’d hoped to be going into my writers retreat this weekend. I’m not sure I’ll get my word count today, but I should be able to make up for it tomorrow. If I work hard I should hit the 50,000 word mark before we leave the cottage Sunday.

How is your NaNo going? Are you making the progress you’d hoped?

Behind in my NaNo Updates – Day 11, 12 & 13

This NaNoWriMo has been different then most. It has been very consistent. I’m not really having good days and bad days, just days. I struggle to get to about 2,000 words each day, then I hit my stride and zoom through the last of my words for the day. This isn’t a bad thing, but it is pretty boring to read about. The 11 and 12th were both more of the same. On the 11th I had to make up some words I missed on the 10th to give me a 5k total for those two days. The 12th was just like any other day.

On the 13th I decided it was a great day to try and get some extra words. I have a writing retreat coming this weekend, and I would love to hit 50k by the end of the weekend. That means one day early at my daily 2.5k pace. Not a big deal as even when I go over my word count one day I still aim for 2.5k the next. Those extra words start to add up. They weren’t adding up to a full extra day though.

I was off work the 13th, and for higher word count days I like to break my writing into two or even three sessions. So on the 13th I set a goal of writing 1,000 words in the morning. That wasn’t too hard. My son and husband went out to run an errand and I wrote while they were gone. In the afternoon I found time to write about 1,000 words while my son watched a bit of TV. Then I sat down to write in the evening as usual.

My goal by the end of the 13th was to be at 35,000. That would mean that if I got my 2,500 words each day I’d finish on the last day of the retreat. When I hit 35,000 words I realized I was only about 100 words away from having a 4,000 word day. I figured why not! and wrote an extra 150 or so words. That gave me over 4,000 words on the 13th and put me a little over my goal of 35,000 by the end of day 13th. Now to keep the lead I’ve given myself until the end of the weekend when I can finish with friends at the writing retreat.

How is your novel going this year? Have you had any surprises?

NaNo Daily Challenge – 15th-21st

As promised here are the next seven things I’m going to be focusing on for my NaNo Daily Challenge. I am going to repeat a few I really enjoyed earlier in the month. Also I’m struggling to ‘break’ my character, so a bit of a focus on that this week.

  1. focus on voice
  2. Someone betrays your main character
  3. Use more than sight to describe things (touch, sound, taste, and smell)
  4. Use “yes, but” or “no, and” to solve problems
  5. Show the characters have affect on the story
  6. Let the worse case scenario happen
  7. Find ways to increase the tension

Time to get writing.

My Love of Notebooks

A pile of unused Moleskine large cahiers

I love notebooks and journals. The pile of journals in that picture? My UNused large Moleskine cahiers.

The first time I really fell in love with a journal was when I was in Italy in high school. My parents took me, and my best friend M to Europe for three weeks. While we were in Italy we ended up in this little store that sold daily planners. They were simple school planners. Each day had a page, and they weren’t year specific. Anyway M and I each picked one out. They were about 5 inches across, and 7 inches tall. Mine had a pinkish floral design (which is funny because I’ve never been a pink kind of girl). I wrote in it every day for most of the year. The writer in me wishes I’d kept it, even with all its embarrassing confessions.

After that I started using whatever notebooks I could find. Coil bound 5 star notebooks in various sizes were a favourite. They were cheap and you could get them for multiple subjects. they laid flat when you were writing in them. The coils got in the way on the back of the page though, so I often only wrote on one one side.

When I started university I discovered those blue lab notebooks. I bought an extra a few times and they became my go to for writing fanfic. I liked the hard cover, they didn’t get messed up being tossed in my backpack, and they weren’t too expensive. The bright blue took some getting used to, but it wasn’t out of place on a university campus.

Then my husband, technically boyfriend as this was before we were married, discovered the ‘Everyman’s journal‘ from Lee Valley. I filled one with fanfic stories of my favourite show at the time. A second is still sitting in my study untouched. They are lovely journals, but big. Not something I want to drag around with me all the time. I certainly can’t throw one into my small L.L. Bean boat and tote.

Through university, and after, I would pick up notebooks when I found them on sale racks, or when I just needed something new to write in. My father was a Moleskine fan, but I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on my notebooks. Sometimes I bought coil bound, sometimes a regular book bound one. I ended up with countless half finished notebooks. When my father passed away one of the things I did was raid his notebook stash for the Moleskines. There is still one left, with a beautiful blue map cover, that I know I’ll grab someday, but so far I can’t bring myself to take the last of the ‘good’ ones from him.

Squared, unlined, and lined Moleskine cahiers.Over the years I’ve culled my notebook collection. Getting rid of things that were full of scrap notes, or old course notes. Keeping the filled ones that had value to me. These days I usually use Moleskine large cahiers. I sized my Fauxdori to fit them. They are small, but still last a few months when used as a Bullet Journal. The paper is decent and the notebooks are cheap, so I can use one per novel idea and not feel guilty about it. Plus they come in lined, unlined, and squared.

Do you love notebooks? How many notebooks do you have?

Update for Days 8, 9, & 10

All three of these days (Nov. 8-10) I debated stopping early. I knew I wanted to hit 25k by the end of day 10, but I had a nice buffer of 500 words going into Day 8. I held off using any of that buffer until day 10. On the 8th and 9th I got over my target of 2,500!

This whole month has been a bit strange in terms of my writing pace. Usually I write at a fairly consistent pace. During November there are always a few days that feel like a real slog, but it doesn’t happen every single day.

All three of these days started slow. On day 8 and 9 it took almost 2,000 words to feel like I hit my stride, and I could write at a faster pace. Of course by the time I’d written those 2,000 words, it was late and I could only get so many more words before it was time to sleep. I did manage to get over goal both days, giving me an even larger buffer going into Day 10.

Day 10 felt slow for the first 600 words or so, but then the words came fast. I was busy with doing other things, so it was more like tiny writing sprints where I would get say 250 words then stop for a while to do other things. It was productive, but in the end I had to stop with only 2,200 words. It was too late to get anymore. I felt bad about eating up some of my ‘extra’, but it was nice to finish the day over 25,000.

My NaNoDailyChallenges:

  • Day 8 was to avoid redundant phrases. I am not horrible about doing this, but it is something I think about more during editing than writing. It was good to think about it during writing instead of holding off. I don’t think this would make it into my regular rotation of things to consider while writing though.
  • Day 9 my goal was to focus on the voice of the story. This is hard. I think the real issue is that the voice of all my stories sounds the same. The characters, even if they are different in their attitudes, habits, etc have the same voice. I need to read up more on this, and maybe find some specific exercises to try to improve. Doing this as a daily challenge kept me aware of the problem, but I didn’t feel closer to fixing it.
  • Day 10 was to make sure things still happened while my characters are talking. This is something I am conscious of on a normal writing day. I enjoyed getting to focus on it without the other background noise though.

How is your month going? What are you learning from NaNoWriMo?

Double Update Again – Day 6 & 7

Alright another double NaNoWriMo update today. I would have posted about day 6 yesterday, but I thought posting my next seven NaNo Daily Challenges was more important (and fun!). Today I’ll get to the word count updates.

Day 6:
Mondays have busy afternoons, but lazy early evenings. My son has a martial arts class, but my husband takes him. The time between school and martial arts is kind of tight, so I have to get dinner on the table earlier. But! Once he is fed and out the door, I have about an hour and 45 minutes to myself. During November, and I hope I keep this habit after, I write during this time. When he gets home it is a whirlwind bedtime followed by more writing.

My daily challenge was to use “yes, but” and “no, and”. I was introduced to this idea during the No Prep NaNo course I took with Mary Robinette Kowal. The idea intrigued me and I decided it would make a great daily challenge. It was a lot of fun, and it did give me a way to pile things on top of my character. In many cases it also helped me keep the story moving. Twice I found myself not using the technique and I went back and fixed it to my stories betterment. Final word count of the day was just over 2,500.

Day 7:
I didn’t get started on my writing until after 7:30p. With a daily goal of 2,500 this was later than I’d like. I got a workout in before picking up my son at school, and the time was well spent even if it meant getting a later start on writing. Sometimes in November I focus too much on writing and forget other things (like my fitness) matter. Glad I got the workout in.

My daily challenge was to show character emotion through action instead of labels. I’ve been working on this for a while, but the bigger problem I really face isn’t a labeling issue, but a poor description of emotions. Definitely something I need to continue to think about and work on. The first 1,800 words were a slog. It felt slow and cumbersome, but the last 700 flew by. I love when I hit my stride like that. Total at the end of the day was just over 18,000!

Are you on track for NaNo? What writing weaknesses are you working on?

NaNo Daily Challenge – 8th-14th

As promised here are the next seven things I’m going to be focusing on for my NaNo Daily Challenge.

  1. avoid redundant phrases (ex. circle around)
  2. focus on voice
  3. in dialogue heavy scenes, make sure you don’t JUST have dialogue
  4. use fewer adverbs
  5. don’t let the character(s) take the easy way out
  6. avoid cliches
  7. let your main character make mistakes

I’ve really been enjoying these challenges. Having one specific thing to focus on is much less intimidating than trying to remember everything at once. For NaNo I have a lot of practice at turning off my inner editor, but this lets me pick one tiny thing to think and worry about, without letting all the rest creep back in. This might be a writing exercise I take with me to my writing the rest of the year.

What are you hoping to get out of NaNo this year? Are you all caught up, or falling behind?