I’m thinking about November and National Novel Writing Month. (Who reading this blog isn’t?)
Last year I started NaNoWriMo with a page or two of scribbled notes and little else. Now, almost a year later, I’ve still got an unfinished draft with some decent characters and snazzy scenes, as well as a bunch of dead ends and ho-hum characters yawning ‘so what?’
I didn’t have a clear sense of where I was going with the manuscript when I started (which I thought would be okay, given the ‘road trip’ nature of the thing) and consequently, I haven’t gotten there – wherever and whatever there is – yet. I’m not ready to give up on Tap Dancing at the County Fair, but I’d sure like to approach this year’s NaNoWriMo with a better sense of direction.
And I’d like your help.
There are a couple of paths I might take. First is to build this novel on the goals and some of the story segments (this and this) I started in Merrilee Faber’s Creativity Workshop. I want to explore these questions in more depth: Why do people break the rules/break the law? What happens – good and bad – when they do?
I want to answer these questions journeying through the heart of darkness, A/K/A suburbia. So the role of ‘place’ is important. I’ve got a tentative title: cul-de-sac. I love that the literal translation is ‘bottom of the bag,’ which seems apt to me.
As I see it now, this would be a battle between revenge and redemption playing out in the ‘burbs by those seemingly normal folks who pass for our neighbors. Originally I thought about a mythic journey although that may be too much to ask of my brain cells in their current state.
But. I want to have a much clearer roadmap before starting. I’d like to have some semblance of a plot – a beginning, middle, end. I’m not too worried about character or dialogue, since they come relatively easily to me (at least in comparison to plot), but I’d like to build some kind of structure so that I’ll know how and where this thang is supposed to end before November 1 arrives and I start writing it.
Which leads me to Plan B.
How about writing a mystery? (What do you see at the top of my blog, in bright green letters?) I love reading them, how about trying to write one? I do think following a formula, laid out in advance of writing, works for a mystery – even though I’m not so sure it’s appropriate for a more literary, character-driven piece (which is what I was thinking originally with Plan A).
I took the ed2go mystery writing course a couple of years ago, and maybe the timing was wrong. It just didn’t do it for me. But I found The Classic 12-Chapter Mystery Formula yesterday, and found myself nodding – not nodding off – as I read it. It made sense to me!
So now what?
Should I focus on a whodunit and follow a genre formula?
As I was typing the above questions – cue ‘Twilight Zone’ theme music here (yes, I’m that old) – I got my daily Writer’s Digest email titled The Dos and Don’ts of Combining Genres. I’m generally of the there-are-no-coincidences school of thought, so I found this pretty interesting timing.
How about Plan C?
Can I pack my angst-filled suburban characters into a murder mystery formula and still end up with something semi-literary? And occasionally even funny?
On the one hand, it doesn’t seem so ‘creative’ to fill in the blanks of a prescribed formula. On the other hand, who am I kidding? I can’t seem to pull a compelling plot out of my brain on my own, no way no how. Maybe the structure of a formula is just what I need.
Any thoughts on this? Anyone familiar with the 12-Chapter Mystery Formula? Or the Dos and Don’ts article?
Do they make sense? Do I make sense?
Should I stick with my original somewhat vague goals and the revenge/redemption conflict? If so, what are some good resources so I won’t spend November and beyond going around and around in circles?
Should I leave Shirley and her crew stewing in the suburbs while I dust off my Nancy Drew persona? Or should I bring them along for the ride in Nancy’s blue roadster? If so, any good ideas for how to bring this stuff together? Angst and a couple of yucks?
Am I considering too much? Or too little? Am I making any sense?
I’d love to know what you think. And what I should do come November. Thanks.
Ms. Natasha. In the study. With the keyboard.