Now what, indeed!

exclamationWell, imitation is supposed to be the highest form of flattery, so here’s to Dayner. As I learned from reading her most recent post this morning, Dayner had already written a post titled ‘Now What?’ AND used the same picture I used in my post yesterday! Honest, Dayner, I wasn’t plagiarizing! I hadn’t even read your October post — we were on a road trip through Texas and Louisiana then with only sporadic Internet access. I’m glad I read it this morning.

Now what indeed: I’m still stuck in the quagmire of words and plot lines and characters and looking at my NaNo novel, wondering what to do with it.

Here’s my latest strategy. Will it be work? Who knows…. Remember that I had about 2 pages of notes on November 1 — no outline, only a couple of characters, and an extremely vague idea of story line. (Is that an oxymoron? Can something be extremely vague? If it’s vague, it’s, well, vague — and levels of extremity are impossible to assign. Are they or aren’t they? — OKAY, this is NOT the level of editing I want to start with!)

I printed it all out and put it in a 3 ring binder (a pretty one bought just for this:-) ) I am speed-reading through the entire thing once, sitting on my hands so I don’t take any notes. All pens, pencils, lipsticks, wood-carving tools, etc. are locked away to keep me from temptation. I am not near my laptop.

Then I’m gonna read through it again, more slowly. I’ll have a pad of paper and i might jot down some very rough thoughts at as high a level as possible.

The third read-through I intend to have a pile of index cards, and I’m gonna write a sentence or phrase about each scene or vignette on a separate index card. (It seems to me like different colors to signify something could be useful, but I don’t know what or how so I’ll probably just use whatever index cards I have.) I’m thinking of a scene or vignette as generally a 1-3 page piece, either part of a chapter or a short chapter. So one vignette might be Libby and Reed getting stuck on a ledge with a rattle snake, and Libby spooking the snake. The next vignette might be Reed’s interior monologue as he begins to figure out how unbelievably cool Libby is, as well as how hot…

Remember, I didn’t work from an outline or an idea or anything so the existing sequencing in my novel is at best, scrambled.

As I’m doing this, it should probably become clearer to me that some vignettes need to be put in different places. Some of them will need to go in the trash (actually, in a junk folder somewhere — you can never tell what you might be able to recycle), some might go into a totally different story, and some might work well within the novel if they get shuffled around. I suspect that ALL of them need work. And it should be clear that there are gaping holes, and hopefully I can jot down some notes on special ‘gaping hole’ index cards that tell me how to fill those holes.

I used to work in an office that had a lovely large conference room with a plain white wall covered with some kind of glossy stuff. I’d go in there with piles of sticky notes with all these disparate (I thought) data points and observations and slap those babies up all over the wall where I thought they might belong together — stand back and look at them, move them around some more. Over time, things came together in ways I couldn’t imagine from sitting with them at a desk.

For better and worse, I work at home now and don’t have that big open wall space. But I think I can move those index cards around on top of the guest room bed. As long as I turn off the ceiling fan! (Or maybe turn it ON when I get frustrated.)

So this may be backward — since everything I read says that characters drive the story, not the other way around — but now I want to draw up profiles of each of my characters and see if what I already know about them gives them the impetus to move the story in the direction the index cards are suggesting. If not, I may need to add more backstory to their lives, or change the vignettes, or something.

Note that I have yet to make a single mark on my draft. Now I want to read it again, and again not make any edits. Maybe this is another speed read to get the big picture in better perspective.

Then I intend to start revising at a high level, vignette by vignette. But not on this original draft copy. Add — or delete — more action, develop characters better so their actions make sense, look at POV more critically, add suspense where there isn’t enough to entice readers on….

After I’ve done this (this could be a looooong process, with a lot of loops going back and forth between vignettes and characters) I’ll put the vignettes together into a new document.

THEN I can begin to edit in more detail — to flesh out dialogue and description, to make better transitions.

After all that — if I’m still alive — I’ll get into nitty gritty proofreading kind of stuff like tenses, subject-verb agreement, passive voice, punctuation, word usage, etc.

SO: that’s my current game plan. Will it work? Will I stick to it, or decide later today that it is just another load of crap and this plan, along with my NaNo novel, should head directly into the trash and I should begin studying to become an actuary or something? (According to the Wall Street Journal, actuary — and not novelist — is the hot job of the decade.)

Inquiring minds want to know. I would love feedback on what you think of this process. And, of course, on what you are doing that works. Thanks!

9 comments to Now what, indeed!

  • Your plan sounds more than logical to me!

  • From everything I’ve read (a few articles, the Baty book & now this new book I picked up from James Scott Bell), that sounds pretty much like what you’re “supposed” to do. It’s sounds for the most part like what I’ll be doing!


    I wish, however, that I did have a ceiling fan so when it comes time to scramble up the scene cards, I could just turn it on and….

    • Nancy

      Hmm, I’m not usually so big on the ‘supposed’ to approaches, but it just seems like as good a way as any to start.

      Kathan, you are more than welcome to my ceiling fans whenever you wish!!

  • An Actuary could be a good solution for me but I’m not willing to go back to school for a math degree.
    I spent weeks drafting scenes on big post-it notes and covered my bedroom door with them. It helped me delete almost 50,000 words. I was able to get a better grasp on the story and see the big picture.
    I guess I need to do it again.
    Oh–and I never questioned the picture 😉 I got it off the internet so I’m sure you’ll find it in many places and on many blogs.

    • Nancy

      Dayner — Your whole pre-writing thing for NaNo was totally different than mine — and I was REALLY impressed by it. You were so well-organized and thorough! So probably what you should do now is totally different than what I should be doing.

      Well, the article in the Wall Street Journal quoted a 29 year old actuary who said he was making ‘somewhere in the 90K – 125K range typical of someone with 4 years of experience.’ It did make me sit up and takenote but that’s about it….

      • Yeah, but there is still that whole no math degree thing. I should push my brother he’s the Mathematician in the family but he wants to be a high school math teacher. Of course with that pay it’s no wonder nobody wants to be a teacher these days.
        I did the post-in note thing post story for Dangerous Embrace. I really wasn’t that organized for Nano, but I did have a good grasp on my characters.

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