Write Your Novel this Summer Challenge

Summer Writing Challenge Check-in: Week 6 | Breaking the rules, starting a new project

"Writing", 22 November 2008
I actually had a very productive writing week. | “Writing”, 22 November 2008 (Photo credit: ed_needs_a_bicycle)

This week, I am breaking one of those fundamental writing rules. You know the one about how you should finish one project before starting the next? Yeah, well, I totally broke it.

My existing work in progress (WIP) seems hopelessly stalled at the moment. I know what the problem is. My focus is too broad. I need to start cutting, but I can’t decide where to start. I decided to do some experimenting with a simplified story line to gain some perspective on my problem. Next thing I knew, I’d mapped out an entire new novel project and written a first chapter to go with it.

Yes, I broke the rule.

At least I am writing again.

I wondered how fast I might be able to write a novel if I work with a much more simplified outline than what I have been using for my existing WIP. For this new project, I started with a story world idea first. My existing WIP started with dialogue, and I have struggled with my story world from day one. For the purpose of this little experiment, I decided to create a story world first, and then work my way out.

This time, I made a concerted effort to limit my story world so it does not become as complex and unwieldy as that of my existing WIP. I am keeping the story within a smaller geographic location and am limiting the number of major characters, themes, and motifs. I hate to admit it, but my existing WIP just has way too much stuff going on. This new experiment is far more focused.

Once I had my story world figured out, it was time to come up with some characters and a conflict. It was time to freewrite. Nothing came to mind at first, so I started by writing out what I didn’t want my story to be.

First of all, my new project is a YA novel set in a post-apocalyptic society. I like this genre, but there are a lot of elements of this genre that have been way overdone since The Hunger Games. I’m talking about elements that were fresh when I first read that book but have since become cliché with all of the copycat novels that have followed. I picked out the elements that seemed overdone to me and threw them away. I am not going there.

So, I freewrote about what I didn’t want my story to be about, and next thing I knew, I had an idea. I had chosen a conflict. Now, who to put in the middle of that conflict? With a bit more freewriting, I had figured that out as well.

My next step was to map out the story’s structure. I am normally not one for outlining, but looking at a sample story structure often gives me ideas for where I want my story to go. I had recently come across this infograph outlining author Larry Brooks’ story structure and decided to give it a go. As I was writing ideas for each part of the novel, I began to see my characters, and then I began to hear them talking to each other. The dialogue was flowing, and it was working!

Long story short: I mapped out (okay fine, I outlined. Maybe I am an outliner after all!) fifteen basic chapters for this new novel project. I believe I can write a complete first draft in these fifteen basic chapters.

Will there be a lot of holes in it when it’s done? Yes. However, I can fill those holes in the second draft. I will probably end up writing long chapters that will be split in half, or garbage chapters that I will cut. But I have a complete plan for finishing a first draft, and I think I can do it in a relatively short amount of time. I may even complete my own Write Your Novel this Summer Challenge!

I wrote my first chapter on the first day. I know what I want in each of these fifteen basic chapters. What if I were to simply sit down and write one of these chapters each day for the next fifteen days? Is it possible to write an entire first draft in fifteen days? When you start with a simple story line like this, maybe it is. As of this morning, I have written four chapters. Only eleven more to go! (Ten more, after I write today’s chapter.)

I’m not saying I am going to keep my story totally simple all the way through to the end of the process. In future drafts, I will look for themes and motifs that I can strengthen. I will try to add some small flecks of gold to the threads of my story to make it shine. But for now, I want to finish the first draft of a novel. And I want to do it by the end of the summer.

This week’s writing totals:

  • Novel #1: I added 0 words, for a grand total of 68,607.
  • Novel #2: I added 5,883 words, for a grand total of 5,883.
  • Memoir: I added 1,422 words, for a grand total of 6,117.

What are your word count totals for this week?

~Amanda L. Webster

2 thoughts on “Summer Writing Challenge Check-in: Week 6 | Breaking the rules, starting a new project”

  1. Had a similar brainmelt with my WIP around the middle of the month. Spent the rest of July doing plotting triage, so it feels like it’s a new project again rather than a revised revamp. But it’s all good and I’m pretty excited about the changes. I’m just glad I didn’t bury myself in what could have been a nasty plot hole.

    My word counts have averaged 5K/day because of a Fast Draft class I joined over the weekend, but I’ve decided not to post the numbers anymore (as I had done for Camp NaNo). I think the numbers also got into my head and I’d rather feel less pressure than I have in previous months.

    Glad you’re still writing, regardless of what project it is. I think we should write what are passion dictates. I just wished my passion didn’t keep finding new passions. It’d be nice to keep my multiple WIPs to the single digits, no? 😉

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