A Novel in Progress
After stagnating with my novel writing for some time, I have made progress this week. Ironically, I’ve had a dip in my mood and productivity is slower in most areas of my life. I am still hairy and my hair needs washing. The house is filthy. But overall, the medication must be helping because I would usually be a bed-ridden zombie at this time of year.
The working title for my first novel is ‘The Empty Cradle.’ Here is a rough blurb.
Amy is twenty-nine, married to dreamy Bobby and enjoys her job in marketing. They have been struggling to get pregnant for nearly a year, when Amy’s best friend Sally announces she is expecting. While Amy struggles with infertility, Sally is consumed with all things baby, and a great divide grows. Sally has her own problems with a duplicitous husband and the void of an absent mother. Will Amy get the happily-ever-after she is looking for? Can Amy and Sally’s friendship survive?
I have written 20,000 words of the first draft. It isn’t as much as I’d like yet, but more on that later. For the record, I am not an outliner. I am what they call a ‘pantser’ (fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer). I have comprehensive character outlines, and I add to these as the story evolves. I know the intimate details of the characters. I start with the physical and work inwards – hair, eyes, height, weight, date of birth/star sign, occupation, dress-sense. I consider how they talk, carry themselves, their likes, dislikes and the dynamics of their relationships. I create a history of how the protagonist met the other characters and detail experiences they have been through together. I weave these details into the story as I go.
Every time I sit down and write, I feel like the story is waiting to be written. I have an idea of what will happen, but am often surprised by where the characters take me. This is an exciting part of being a pantser. The main danger of being a pantser is writers block or boxing yourself into a corner with the plot and having to dig your way out. J.K. Rowling admitted to having this issue while writing the Harry Potter series and halfway through the fourth book, she realised their was a serious problem with the plot. She subsequently rewrote one chapter thirteen times and although it doesn’t show in the final product, it caused her a lot of grief. Still, I stand by writing as a ‘pantser’ at this point. It is working for me. If I find myself staring at a blank page, or pulling my hair out trying to fix plot flaws, I may reconsider.
I use a writing program called Scrivener, which I stumbled across one day last year and find it useful for keeping organised. A binder is created for each project and has sections (or folders) for Outlines, Chapters, Characters notes and Scenes. You can label each folder created accordingly and it exists on a virtual noticeboard. This means if you decide to move a Scene or Chapter, you just pick it up and move it. You can work on each section in isolation and then compile your novel into manuscript format - complete with title page and page numbers. I’m not here to plug Scrivener, I just thought it was worth mentioning. Many people have no issues opening up a Word document and working that way, which is fine too.
My next goal is JuNoWriMo (June Novel Writing Month) – a writing challenge held in June. The goal is to write 50,000 words of an original work – basically a novel in a month. An average of 1,667 words per day sounds achievable, although I do worry about losing enthusiasm as the month goes on. I have heard feedback from participants of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), held in November, that a lot of
coffee stamina is required to complete the task. I am looking forward to giving it a go.
My goal word count is 90,000 and is based on the average for my genre of women’s contemporary fiction (80,000-100,000 words). It may be slightly more or less than 90,000 when it is completed and had several edits. I figure if I write 90,000 words as a first draft, then I have plenty to work with on revision to result in a manuscript of 80-100,000 words. Of course, novels are published with less than 80,000 words or more than 100,000 words. The books of my favourite author in the women’s fiction genre, Marian Keyes, run at well over 100,000 words. The advice seems to be though, if you are in the vicinity of ‘acceptable word count’, an agent or publisher isn’t going to balk. I recommend conducting research on your chosen genre to gauge average word count. You may have an amazing manuscript of 150,000 words and think it will break all of the conventions – maybe it will. It also may be too long for anyone to bother reading it. Or it may be a sign the book needs serious refining. If you produce a manuscript within acceptable guidelines, it is more likely to be commercial. Reading works in your genre is a great way to get a feel for your ‘market’ and an idea of appropriate length.
Anyway, if you are writing, good for you! If you are like me, it has been a long-held dream. Getting started and turning up is an achievement in itself. So many people live with the ‘should have’s,’ instead of following their dreams. Write on.
Are you writing? Do you outline or fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants?
Posted on May 23, 2013, in Writing and tagged #writer, Book, JuNoWriMo, Manuscript, NaNoWriMo, Novel, Outliner, Pantser, Scrivener, Women's fiction, Word Count, Writing. Bookmark the permalink. 31 Comments.