Monday, November 4, 2013

No Plot? No Problem! Chapter 5

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No Plot? No Problem!

By Chris Baty

Section Two: Write Here! Write Now! A Frantic, Fantastic Week-by-Week Overview to Bashing out Your Book

This section's title page includes a footnote reminding us not to get too far ahead.  Well, I'm going to have to in order to make sure these go up on time, but if you're following through me, you just won't be able to.  In either case, the warning doesn't mean much for you and me. Anyway, the point is that we should make it a point to only apply each week's advice to the relevant week.

Chapter 5: WEEK ONE: Trumpets Blaring, Angels Singing, and Triumph on the Wind

Going by the calendar, we're about halfway through Week One.  How's your wordcount? As of press-time, I'm at 2603, or about 4063 behind schedule. Sigh.

Baty begins the chapter by trying to get us pumped for this adventure we're on. Then, he kidnaps our Inner Editors.

Oh, this is the rough part.  The one year I came closest to winning, ugh. Just thinking about that manuscript makes me shudder. But you know what? It got a story idea out of my head and onto the computer screen, and maybe, someday, if that idea starts bugging me again, I'll have something I can take apart and put back together.

But, yes, no Inner Editor.

Baty also makes three requests of us:
  1. Please take this challenge very seriously. Don't let your brain trick you into being lazy! Hit your daily quota! Win!
  2. Do not take any of this very seriously. Doing this is pretty ridiculous.  Embrace it!
  3. Know that you have done all of this before. Humans are storytellers, and we're just tellign stories, here.
Now, gather up the totem, reference materials, music, snacks, and other supplies you've been laying in over the past few weeks, and get to it!

Baty now gives up some tips and hints specific to Week One.

For example, don't get hung up on writing the perfect opening sentence. You can always add that in later. Stressing on it wastes time you barely have. Just jump in!

Likewise, when it comes time to save your file (do this often!), don't get hung up on the name. I usually go with "Nano[year]", so last year's was "Nano2012" and this year's will be the ever-so-original "Nano2013." File names can be changed; you can do that when you come up with a great title.

And don't stress on the perfect placement of chapter breaks.  Keep on telling your story, and the breaks will eventually work themselves out.

You're probably raring to go this week, all excited to finally start getting your ideas on paper.  Awesome! Take advantage of that! It doesn't actually matter if it doesn't make sense!
Even if you don't know exactly how you're going to fit those five ninjas into your courtroom drama, hey, they've arrived.  And they want to be in your book. So put them in there. Inevitably they'll do something for the plot. If their performance doesn't end up meriting their inclusion, you can always clip them out later.
You're not likely to be burnt out yet, so if you get in the groove, keep going! Your daily quota is technically 1667 words a day, but if you're in the zone, hit 2,000, or more! Try for 10,000 your first weekend (which, um, just passed)! Build yourself a buffer because, spoiler alert, you'll probably need one.

Also, every word you write counts toward your ultimate wordcount.  So if you need to cut something, italicize it, or change its font color to match your background color.  Me, I use strikethrough. Who knows? Something you cut could still come in handy later.

Also, open a Notes file on your computer. Whenever you have a  bright idea for your novel that will come in handy later, write it there. When it comes times to use it, use copy-paste to plop it in.

And don't share too much of your work this month.  If you're showing people, you'll be tempted to edit it first, and we are not editing this month! In fact, don't even re-read more of what you've written than absolutely necessary to pick up where you left off.

Now, Baty gives us a few writing exercises tailored to Week One. Give them a try over the next few days:

Need some quirkiness? Call friends (or ambush strangers) and ask them to describe their strangest relatives.

Now, watch a TV show you like but won't get sucked into. Is it fiction? OK, you're set. Count how many plots the show is juggling. When does the Central Problem show up? How does it use foreshadowing? Point of view? Remember, we want to use the parts we like.


The first sidebar in this chapter talks about figuring out when your most alert, creative times of day are, and then exploiting them. No real advice on how to do that, just a general suggestion.

The second sidebar provides reflections from past winners on the good and bad points of Week One.

The third sidebar reminds us to keep track of all our characters, so we don't change their names and lose track of them as we go.

So, what's your wordcount?
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